By Laci Sutton / Staff W
On Friday, the Hutchinson Community College honors sociology class, along with a few other honors students, went behind the limestone wall and toured the Hutchinson Correctional Facility.
Students toured the all-male, maximum-security facility located in southern Hutchinson.
Upon arrival, the individuals on the tour put all coats, belts, and extra belongings in a tub to run through a metal detector and walked through a full-body scanner.
Driver’s licenses were left at the check-in desk as the group went on their way, guided by two gracious employees of the facility.
Before entering the housing areas, the tour guides discussed a few things to expect as they continued the tour. They warned the group on what to do should a serious situation arise, what different jumpsuits or uniforms mean, and what different mannerisms mean to the inmates.
The entrance of the dormitories holds an armed guard, the only actively armed guard on the grounds. He sits behind the glass watching over the center common area of the facility. The glass has a few holes for the guard to point weapons out of, should the need arise.
As the group took their first steps into the center of the facility past the armed guard, there was a mix of emotions among the group.
Carrie Lyne is a HutchCC freshman in the sociology class.
She says, “My first thought honestly was wow it smells terrible.”
Vicky Ruiz-Velasco, another HutchCC freshman in the sociology class, had something else on her mind as they entered the facility.
Velasco said, “I figured that all the inmates would be in their cells because we were walking around. I was wrong.”
Upon entering the center of the prison, the group was faced with several hallways all around, a second level leading to more housing, and a few inmates freely walking to different places in the facility.
Kim Newberry is the instructor for the HutchCC honors sociology class.
Newberry said, “Fear. Initial feeling walking in is always a little bit of fear. Our tour guides really helped. Seeing they’re totally comfortable and cool in the environment. They helped keep me more relaxed.”
The guides took the groups to their first hall of cells. This row held 200 single-occupancy, each 40-square feet in size.
Students were able to stand in an empty cell to get a feel for life behind bars.
Velasco said, “The cells were smaller than I expected.”
Next, the group was taken to another hall with more cells. These cells housed five inmates in one cell, with the cell being about double the size of a single-occupancy cell.
Assigning inmates to live in the five-man cells can be extremely difficult. They have to find five guys who stand to be around each other without causing problems. Many different factors go into those living assignments.
Lyne said, “I think that I personally would prefer the single cell over the five-man cells. They were tight, and having the toilet next to your bed was disgusting, but not having to worry about living that close to someone who hates you would be a relief.”
Next, the group went through the dining hall.
The students learned that inmates are the facility’s work crew. They do the laundry, cook and serve meals, clean, repair, and even give each other haircuts.
The inmates get paid monthly, and pay rates can range from $0.50 a day to $10 a day, or maybe even more. They can use the money they earned to buy things like hygiene products (including toilet paper!), tv/magazines for entertainment, and food or specialty snacks.
HCF uses a blind serving line in their dining hall. Inmates working in the kitchen are not able to see who they serve, and those being served can’t see who served them. This prevents conflicts among the incarcerated. This prevents favoritism or disagreements among inmates.
The group went outside to see HCF’s educational facilities, and then over to the intake and release area, and back to the check-in center to pick up their ID’s to leave.
The common after-thought from the tour was that it was a very eye-opening experience. The media can portray the prison system from many different angles, but nothing will compare to physically being able to see it first-hand.
The students learned a lot about life incarceration. Some of the most common takeaways included cell living, the inmates pay rate, and jumpsuit sizes (Large-6XL).