Monday, February 29, 2016

And you think YOUR school feels like a jail...

     At the end of September, I let out this cry of frustration over not being allowed back into the Chicago public high school inside Cook County Jail, which I visited in 1987. That led to me finally being allowed in, in early January. The tour seemed fairly ordinary, but then I started hearing from former teachers, criticizing the school, and I realized why they hadn't wanted me in; not mere bureaucratic inertia, but concern over how they'd come off. I tried to thread the needle and both do the feature I had in mind, and include the concerns of the former teachers. This story isn't fish nor fowl, but at least it got into the paper. 
     "Welcome to Mr. Maloney's Science Class" reads a slide projected on the wall of Room 1306. Posters describe the circulatory system, the skeleton.
     "Today we're going to cool out a little bit and not worry about all our assignments," says John Maloney, projecting a laid-back teacher vibe, welcoming his new class at Consuella B. York Alternative High School. He outlines the grading system he'll use, stresses the importance of tidy folders, and says something that indicates we are not in just any of the 176 public high schools in Chicago.
     "I want to get your court dates," he says to his class of 10 students, who are all wearing identical school uniforms: beige scrubs with "DOC" — Department of Corrections — stenciled on them.
     York High School is the CPS high school within the Cook County Jail at 2700 S. California. The school has roughly 235 students — enrollment fluctuates day by day as students are incarcerated and released — ranging in age from 17 to 22. Only two 17-year-olds are left in the jail after most were transferred to juvenile custody last year. It has 56 teachers and administrative staff.

To continue reading, click here. 


  1. Wonder how those students treat the teachers.

    1. There are probably principals in the CPS that pressure teachers on things as well to make the stats look good.

  2. A needle nicely threaded I thought.

    Tom Evans

  3. I think it's great that they're able to continue their education while incarcerated.


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  5. As the trend in this country is privatization of the prison system, one can only surmise that even this level of education will be reduced or eliminated. Cause after all, if there's no immediate $$$ payoff, who will be interested?

  6. NIce article.
    I'm a former prison teacher and am impressed that Cook County has a real high school for inmates. All we had at the Hawaiian prison where I taught was basic math and reading and GED prep. We did a pretty good job of getting the guys (all guys) graduated though, and our graduation ceremonies were very satisfying to all.


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