By Imrat Pasha ’16
Convicts of Green Haven Correctional Facility greeted the Hornets. Mr. Stuart Rothstein and 25 students visited Green Haven jail on March 25. Mr. Rothstein takes different groups of students on this trip twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. Anybody can sign up to go but most students usually come from his elective law classes.
Green Haven Correctional Facility is a maximum security prison in New York located in Dutchess County. At first it was a federal prison, but now it’s a maximum security prison and most of their inmates have relations to the mafia and mobs. The prison also has a large Jewish population so they have kosher food.
The purpose of this trip is for students to understand what type of consequences there are if they are involved in a crime.
“We have been visiting Green Haven on and off since 1993, and we do so because the inmates can relate to all the students we bring up to the prison,” said Mr. Rothstein
He also said even though he’s been to Green Haven many times, he learns something new, and his experiences change with each group he brings up.
During the trip, the inmates took the students on a tour of the jail where they went to the cafeteria, as well as outside where the inmates are able to have time to talk on the phone, exercise, or play sports for an hour a day. The inmates also allowed students to ask them any questions, and they were also willing to listen to any of the problems that the students were going through.
“I was nervous about going because I honestly did not know what to expect,” said Shayla Owens ’16. “I was prepared for the worst and hoping for the best.”
She was curious to learn about how inmates lived because seeing it in person and on TV are two different things. She said walking away from this experience, she learned to appreciate everything she has in life and not to be discouraged by a bad day.
Jadeja McFarlane ’15 said, “It’s very rare that you get the opportunity to see what jail is like without committing a crime and by going on this trip, I wanted to see what an actual jail was like.”
He learned that it takes one bad decision to turn your entire life upside down and to always be grateful for the things you have in life because the people in prison don’t even have the freedom to go outside.
The inmates also told the students to always stay above the influence and not to get peer pressured. Most inmates were in jail because of the mistakes they made when they were teenagers.
Rachel Dunmay ’16 said she was most excited to see the prison cells and how they lived on a daily basis. She also said she was surprised at how dirty the cafeteria was because it was being cleaned with an old dirty t-shirt that had rust on it.
“I wanted to go on this trip because of all the terrible things I heard about prison and by going on this trip I realized that it’s just as bad as it seems,” said Dunmay.
Students sat down with inmates and they talked about anything and everything; from things happening in the world outside them, to their lives in prison. Students have also mentioned that the inmates were easy to talk to and by the way they were behaving, you would’ve never guessed they actually killed people or committed other crimes. The inmates also told the students to always stay above the influence and not to get peer pressured. Most inmates were in jail because of the mistakes they made when they were teenagers.
When the students sat down with the inmates, they had to follow a confidentially code. They can’t talk about the stories of the inmates, but they mentioned that one of the inmates told his story while wearing his shackles. Another inmate refused to give his name because he says his prison number is his name. They also learned that if an inmate is given permission to attend a funeral, they still have to wear their prison uniform and their shackles.
Overall, this trip was a huge learning experience because students learned that freedom is a privilege and it can get taken away any time, so it’s better to appreciate it. Also, they learned that in order to stay on the right path, one has to focus on the more positive things in life instead of worrying about fitting in with a crowd.