“Jail” playground a gateway to prison?

Have you heard about this playground in Brooklyn that has a neighborhood pissed off? Long story short:There’s a playground much like thousands of other playgrounds in NYC and beyond, except this
particular playground has the word “jail” as part of the, um, décor. This playground is also in predominately-Black Bedford Stuyvesant (my hood). Folks in this neighborhood feel like the sign sends a bad message – encouraging children to go to jail or giving them the idea that jail is a fun place to be. Others
say the playground places a label on the children of the community as future jailbait.

I’m sorry. I think this is a case of overreaction. Granted, it’s not the best game to play – jail. But neither is cops and robbers (where sometimes the robbers win) or many other games children play with no comment from their parents whatsoever. I first heard about this on the news Wednesday night and I couldn’t believe how outraged folks were; especially because the playground with its bars and jail sign had been around for six years before anyone started raising hell.

“We started complaining because it was like promoting kids to go to jail,” said Natasha Godley, 37, who has a 6-year-old son.

No, Natasha, you started complaining about it because someone told you that this is something you ought to complain about. Think about it, since her son was born the playground said “jail” and I imagine she had taken him there on occasion and saw the sign, particularly since it’s near a kid favorite – the slide. The story gained media attention after an African American studies lecturer and Bed-Stuy resident, Lumumba Bandele complained to the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA). His wife sent a photo of the playground to a local Black news outlet, Black and Brown News. To be fair, the NYT reports that this may not have been the first instance of complaints,

Some residents said that complaints about the play set were actually not a new phenomenon. One Housing Authority grounds worker who declined to give her name said that her mother was so incensed about the inscription that, two years ago, she marched over to the play set and covered the word “Jail” with gold spray paint. It was not clear how the word came to be restored.

I don’t know about this one, folks. I’m inclined to agree with some of the comments to the NYT article linked above. Here are a few that weren’t offensive or racist as you can probably imagine:

I agree with the poster who said it’s a lame playspace idea–it’s better when kids use their imaginations to define games on undefined, unadorned spaces. I also think those who think it was a conscious insult to the community are reaching. But it’s moot now. — Satorical

are you serous?!?! people these days are nuts! they’re kids for crying out loud! unless they have irresponsible parenting as kids, they would have no reason to go to jail when older, especially not because of a fun childhood memory of a playground with a fake “jail”. people these days… — Michael

Guys take it easy.. the robbery, killings and the mafia the kids see on TV and hte video games have a much larger influence on the kids than this one…  Come on who has not played “Theif and Police’ as a kid.. it does not promoting kids to go to jail — james

The NYCHA has temporarily covered up the sign until that part of the structure can be replaced. If that makes folks in the neighborhood happier, well then fine. Like I said before, it’s not the most genius and creative play space I’ve ever seen so I don’t think anyone would miss it, least of all the children who play there.

I’ve played “jail” before and didn’t even have a sign that said so but it probably would have been cool. Surprise, I am not typing from prison right now. Am I wrong here? What am I missing? Shouldn’t there be a few more steps between a playground sign and socializing kids for prison? You tell me.