Opposition against proposed jail on Missouri School for the Deaf campus
A few weeks ago I reported that Callaway County commissioners in Fulton, Missouri were considering claiming an unused building on the Missouri School for the Deaf campus, Rice Hall, to turn it into a justice center that could include a jail.
Many MSD alumni and local community members were opposed to this.
There was a “Support MSD” meeting on Friday at a room at William Woods University (WWU) in Fulton. It was hosted by an interpreting student, Maddy Brown, who has emerged as a community activist. She did a vlog and started a petition on change.org that has almost 3,000 signatures.
An MSD alumni and community leader, Dave Eaker, attended the meeting, as well as other alumni and community members. The meeting was featured by local news.
I reached out to both Brown and Eaker for an interview.
Hello, could the two of you can introduce yourselves with your names and who you are. Let’s start with Maddy.
Hi, my name is Maddy Brown and this is my sign name. I’m a student at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri. I’m studying to eventually become an ASL interpreter.
And now you.
Hello, my name is Dave Eaker from Missouri. I grew up and am an alumni of Missouri School for the Deaf (MSD).
I know there was a big news story 2-3 weeks ago that a jail, police station and justice center might be built on the MSD property.
Have you seen how the alumni and the community feel about it? Any positive or negative reactions to that idea?
Deaf people read about this in the Fulton newspaper then the story went viral with a lot of vlogs. MSD staff sent a barrage of emails to our Missouri state senator. Her last name is Riddle. She didn’t even bother to respond to anything. Nothing. We’re still sending her emails.
And I even asked both hearing and deaf people about their thoughts on building the jail in the school property. They were all adamantly against it. They strongly disagree with this.
Did any of the government or city leaders or city commissioners to last Friday’s meeting?
I have to really thank Maddy for bringing attention to the meeting. That made a really big difference…because two commissioners were there.
They realized the Deaf culture was very strong and deaf people are highly visual. For example, if a prison was built on the MSD campus, how would that affect parents with young deaf children? Those parents would be terrified and take their kids out of MSD. They wouldn’t leave their kids there. That would affect the enrollment drastically cutting it down and maybe have to close MSD.
Then that would’ve affected the city of Fulton and its economy by disrupting it. Jobs would be lost.
And one more thing, after the deaf participants shared their concerns, I met with these commissioners. They said they didn’t realize that there would be such a strong effect and that they would pass on my comments at the meeting.
I really hope this changes their minds.
Do you feel like there is unity amongst the deaf community, ASL students and everyone in the signing community? Do they all feel the same way in being opposed to the building of the jail?
They all disagree.
Even the non-signing hearing people were against the idea.
Both deaf and hearing communities are opposed to this.
What are your plans moving forward in pushing back against the idea of building this jail? What are you plans?
That’s a good question. I think the first thing we need to do is stay informed. That means I need to, everyone really, should follow the news. All the meetings with the local government officials need to be on public record that everyone can access online. My suggestion is to follow the news. We want to stay informed, so you know when that happens. If you know then we can take actions and decide on what to do at the moment. The first thing is staying informed and secondly, I also think it’s important if you have an opinion you need to contact your local government officials through writing a letter or emailing or in person. It’s important to let them know what you think. If you never let them know then they will make decisions for you.
That will happen. It’s important that your opinion is shared. That’s really what I would suggest.
Any more comments from you, Dave?
Yes. All deaf people need to keep a close eye on that situation. Check on it through the internet and stay updated. They need to check and see if all their senate bills go through or not. Watch them as closely as possible.
I really do thank deaf people and others for making it know what’s happening on our school property, about our senators and the county jail and the commission.
Keep a really close watch as you possibly can on these things.
Our commissioners and many deaf people are really thankful of Maddy for her activism. We very much appreciate her.
It’s something you should value and get involved in. I just want to give the deaf community a stage like in my school where there’s a room available for use. That event is for the deaf community to express their feelings. It’s not for me and it’s not for my benefit. It’s for the deaf community. That’s the focus.
Alex: Thank you for your time and for sharing.
The Fulton Sun quoted two commissioners. One said he did not realize the community would have this “much weight on their shoulders.” Another said it seems unlikely that the commission would acquire Rice Hall because they will not save as much money as they thought they would due to a larger-than-expected building size, costly renovation costs, and other factors.
We see from the interview that both Brown and Eaker are going to keep a microscopic level of attention to any progress towards or away from building a jail on campus.