Tales from the Wildcat Penitentiary

University student sitting in the corner with head down (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Wildcat Time has come a long way since I was a Freshman.

Picture this: it’s 2018 and you’re a typical, studious, well-rounded, and overachieving Carver Center student. You wake up on the wrong side of the bed one fateful Wednesday morning after accidentally sleeping through your alarm. You shower, get dressed, and make your way to the glorious halls of the one and only Lead Silver high school in Baltimore County. First period passes in the blink of an eye and, before you know it, it is 9:30. You’re just settling into the second period when the realization hits you like a group of freshmen stampeding up the wrong side of the one-way stairwells: It’s Wildcat Wednesday and sign-up has just closed. Heart beating out of your chest, you whip out your phone and scramble to open the AllTimely app. Just as you feared, “Activity Cutoff Time has been exceeded.” The bell rings, dismissing second period, and you are left with only five minutes to find a teacher kind enough to take in a soon-to-be fugitive. Sadly, every classroom you enter is full and even your Prime teacher has refused to claim you. A second bell rings just as Mr. Arrington rounds the corner of the hallway you were searching in.

“Where are you supposed to be?”

You stop dead in your tracks and try to think up an answer, but you soon realize that every answer is the wrong answer.

“Follow me.” He says seconds later and you follow him toward the gym as he alerts another faculty member on his walkie. “I have a code purple. I repeat, I have a code purple. Handbook violation #2611. The fugitive subject was found roaming the Dance hallway.”  After walking for a minute or two, he stops outside of the wrestling room where a long line of somber-looking students awaits booking. “Get in line,” he says, pointing toward them.

Soon, it’s your turn and the woman glares at you from behind her cart.


You tell her and she types something on her school-issued device. She looks back up and grunts with disapproval.

“Leave your backpack along that wall and empty your pockets. If we find any contraband smartphones or AirPods, they will be confiscated, and you will be back here next week. Go in.”

You enter the wrestling room and find it full of other students sitting quietly, two feet apart, along each wall. Teachers guard each corner with their hands folded across their chests. One nods toward free space along the back wall, signaling you to take your place. You slide down the wall and spend the next half an hour reflecting on your failures as a student, the stench of sweaty equipment bombarding your nostrils. How did I end up here? Is this rock bottom? Will colleges still accept me with this on my record?

Wildcat jail timeout today is nothing like it was then. I asked a few survivors to recount their experiences while serving time in the facility.

“These kids today will never know what it’s like. They have it easy. They get to sit in the theater. We had to tough it out on the cold floor; no blankets, no music, no tv, nothin’!” says Dereck Holloway, a graduate from the Carver Center class of 2019. Now a junior in college, his days in the Wildcat Penitentiary have stuck with him.

“My name is Kiersten and I did time back in ‘19. I was inmate number 938. I made the mistake of refusing my free phone call. I thought I could handle it on my own, but that place starts to change you after a while. Next thing I know, I’m on probation, the guards know my name, and they’ve got an assigned spot for me.” she recalls, nearly in tears.

Today’s underclassmen roam the halls without the fear of being hauled off to the big house, oblivious to the delinquents who came before them.