Students will have the opportunity to send their friends to jail on Wednesday, April 24 as part of Fairfield University Jail N’ Bail. Students are encouraged to fill out warrants for $5 in order to have another student of their choice arrested. The arrested student must then be brought before a panel of judges, who may consist of professors, coaches, priests or other campus faculty and staff. Finally, the student is brought to the cell in the traffic circle, where they can attempt to raise money to post the bail set by the judges.
The Department of Public Safety stressed that no student will be forced to participate in the event.
“It’s all voluntary,” said Director of Public Safety Todd Pelazza. “No one has to participate in this if they don’t want to. If you spend ten minutes and say ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ we allow you to leave.”
All of the money collected from the event goes to Special Olympics Connecticut, which “provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities,” according to their website.
“The Department of Public safety has been involved in a charity for over thirty years now, it’s Special Olympics,” said Pelazza. “What we try to do is bring awareness and fundraising to the university to support the programs that occur year round. The money that we raise is able to fund athletes through their competition and practice throughout the entire year.”
Some students feel that the event is insensitive in nature. “I acknowledge that Jail N’ Bail is a seductive charity event in that the prospect of locking up friends is entertaining, meaning students are highly likely to participate and raise lots of money,” said Colin Townsend ‘21 via email. “However, the insensitivity of the event is that real incarceration is a rampant problem, one which most heavily impacts the poor and racial minorities. And the purpose of mass incarceration, like Jail N’ Bail, is to raise money.”
Townsend also raised the issue of Fairfield University’s lack of diversity as well, saying, “Fairfield’s primary demographic, white middle and upper-middle class individuals, are more likely to be in a position to run the criminal justice system than to fall victim to it. Making a game of the issue trivializes the plight of oppressed communities, desensitizing a group of people who may otherwise be encouraged to use their privilege to end mass incarceration.”
However, not all students feel this way. “It’s just a way to raise money,” said Sam Longworth ‘21. “It’s not actually making fun of or trivializing mass incarceration.“
“Certainly we are very sensitive to families that have been impacted by people who have been incarcerated,” responded Pelazza. “It’s not meant to make a mockery or slight anyone. This is merely another mechanism to raise funds.”
Pelazza continued to say that he had addressed this issue earlier in the year when several students voiced their concerns. “We did meet with students early on in the semester who voiced a concern and wanted to continue to have those meetings, but they failed to come back and address any of the issues we wanted to work with them on.”
Pelazza concluded by emphasizing the lighthearted nature of the event, “it’s all in good fun, I think people could really separate the difference between a real justice incarceration system to what we’re trying to do.”