Hawthorne High School’s Criminal Justice classes, accompanied by teacher Joshua Kabrel, went on a field trip to the Passaic County Jail in Paterson on March 10 and 14, 2014.
The program that the students attended is known as Reality Check. According to Passaic County Sherriff’s official website, Pcscherrif.org, this program is “…designed, not so much as a ‘scared straight’ approach, but [as] a face-to-face experience with prisoners who ‘keep it real’ in their presentation about how their lives and the lives of their loved ones have drastically changed as a result of bad decision-making.”
Kabrel said that the trip began with the students being introduced to the jail by the guards. Then, the students were able to take a quick walk through of the prison and view a few of the prison cells. The day ended with certain inmates talking to the students and telling them their stories. The students were able to ask questions afterwards.
Samantha Contrini, HHS senior and Criminal Justice student, said, “It was extremely surreal to see how everyday people can get into such horrendous situations. There was one inmate who spoke and really got to a lot of us. She was prom queen, graduated from Boston University, and has two masters’ degrees. A lot of us don’t realize that these types of things can hit anywhere, and I think she really opened up our minds to that.”
Kabrel said that the main purpose of the trip was to show his students how a correctional facility operates. He also added, “It was also to help them understand that anyone could end up in prison no matter what the background if they start making poor life choices. I believe that most of our students were able to get a lot out of the fieldtrip.”
Overall, after discussing the trip with his students, Kabrel believes that the purpose of this trip was accomplished and that students not only understand how a prison operates, but also walked away with a life lesson that their choices in life matter–no matter what age or stage they are in.