School carnivals offer fun, food and festivity. With a little imagination, the jail can be the highlight of the event. Jazz up your jail with costumes and innovative themes not typically used at other schools. Combine it with a fundraiser for a charitable organization to teach children that it feels good to help others. Students may even pay to have themselves incarcerated because it’s so entertaining. The cost of being jailed should be comparable to other games played at the carnival. Many schools sell tickets.
Recruit well-known local business owners, the mayor or council members to serve as celebrity jailers. Working with student deputies in costume, jailers will provide warrants for students to serve, indicating the alleged crimes committed by fellow students. Students must pay two tickets to have the warrant served on suspects. Jailers and deputies will arrest lawbreakers in toy handcuffs, take a mug shot and incarcerate suspects in jail until the suspects raise their bail, consisting of two tickets. Upon release, students receive their mug shot.
Far Out Themes
Instead of the typical jail with bars, try a variation on the theme. Set up a platform at the carnival and add some props to make it look like a UFO commandeered by green-faced space aliens who look remarkably like popular teachers. For one ticket, students can have classmates or teachers abducted for three minutes. Or use cardboard and duct tape to create a pirate ship run by rogue pirates who were once successful teachers. Students can pay the pirates two tickets to capture anyone at the carnival. The pirates will escort captives to the ship until the prisoner or a sympathetic benefactor pays a ransom of two tickets. Alternatively, use a historical theme, such as jail run by an old-time sheriff and cowboy deputies.
A fall carnival is the perfect time for a haunted jail run by zombie teachers and scary student helpers dressed in all manner of spooky costumes. The jail should be set up like a haunted house with hanging skeletons, tombstones, plastic rats, dark lights and sound effects. For two tickets, students can either confess their crimes and be jailed, or pay two tickets to have friends caught and imprisoned by creatures of the night. Once inside, ghosts and ghouls will lead prisoners on a tour of the haunted jail.
Principal in the Dog House
Raise money for a charitable organization using a variation of the jail theme; advertise that all proceeds go to the designated charity. For instance, stick your principal in a large makeshift doghouse to raise money for the local animal shelter. For two tickets, students can have friends thrown in the doghouse with the principal for three minutes. Teachers can make a minimum cash donation to have other teachers placed in the doghouse for five minutes. The principal must remain in the doghouse until the fundraising goal is met. Noah’s Ark could substitute for the doghouse at religiously affiliated schools.
Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.