Schooled in prison

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A bit of insider advice: Don't eat the honey bun.

Those were among the words of wisdom passed down to the 5-foot-nothing Joe Jones by three inmates eager to share their knowledge.

If you find a honey bun on your bed, don't eat it, Lavoris Thomas told the 87-pound 14-year-old.

Whoever gave it to you will want the favor returned, the inmate said, and he will take it any way he can.

Mr. Thomas, wearing his white prison uniform with navy trim, wanted Joe to make good decisions.

The best decision he could make would be never to end up in prison, he told him.

Joe participated in Ounce of Prevention Services, which wrapped up its monthlong program with a tour of the Augusta State Medical Prison.

OOPS is one of a handful of community organizations relied on by the Richmond County Juvenile Court, which is charged with rehabilitating delinquent children.

Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders frequently jokes that he owes OOPS founder Henry Armstrong III a big steak dinner.

With its small operating budget, the courts depend heavily on community groups to steer juveniles in the right direction, Judge Saunders said.

He orders some of the truants in his courtroom to attend OOPS.

"This is no place to be," 18-year-old Antwan Jackson, who is serving a 15-year sentence, told the students. "Do something with your life. Don't do this. Please don't do this.

"Stay in school. That's my first request of y'all."

The brief experience at the prison changed the students.

"I know I don't want to be here just looking at it," said Kenneth Kelly Jr., 15. "Some of them are looking at you crazy like they want to rape you."

Jacob Manders was at a loss for words. The 12-year-old hadn't been going to school, but that will change, he said, shaken by comments from an inmate who wanted him in his cell.

Medical prison Warden Victor Walker said only 21 percent of Georgia inmates have a high school diploma, and that includes inmates who received their education behind bars. Less than 1 percent have any college experience.

"What does that data tell you?" Mr. Walker asked OOPS participants. "Dummies come to prison."

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

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mgroothand
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mgroothand 08/31/08 - 07:00 am
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A mini version of the Scared

A mini version of the Scared Straight TV program that aired many years ago.

nextstep
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nextstep 08/31/08 - 07:27 am
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Mgroothand it’s more than

Mgroothand it’s more than scared straight! It’s an opportunity for children to see, hear and smell prison life. I have toured the prison several times with groups of children and it’s amazing when they come in the prison with an attitude and leave without one. During the tour, they see men hooked up to kidney machines, medical ward and the morgue you tend to see the attitude change. When they walk in the dooms and see what they will sleep on a mattress not thicker than 2 inches, the way their cell and locker will be kept 24/7 you see more of an attitude adjustment. Then a young man 17 years old not much taller than 5’1 comes in and tells his story. He talks about what sent him to prison and how hard it is doing the time, how he has been tried by men four times bigger and stronger than he is. When the children hear the bars behind them close knowing they can’t get out and they are in a room with 20 men looking at them you see the attitude change. By then end of the tour and after several inmates have stated skipping school, drugs, stealing will end them up here and this is no place you want to be. You see the attitude change totally. It’s called reality! They realize prison is not what they thought and want no part of the system. I asked a young man what he thought he said this is not a place he wants to be. When the girls visited the prison I stated to them now they see how the men live, not it’s time to see how the women live! They told me they have seen enough and just wanted out. The glamour of prison has been taken away and they see and hear what really goes on, the mandatory work that will be performed daily for no pay, the food you will eat, how you have no privacy at all the children want no parts of the system.

nextstep
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nextstep 08/31/08 - 07:28 am
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The children are told what

The children are told what Georgia Seven Deadly Sins are and how much time you will spend in prison. They are told if you get a life sentence the only way you will leave is in a pine box built by the inmates. Hopefully a family member will claim your body if not you are shipped to a prison cemetery. They are told if your family members can’t afford to keep money on your books that mean you might be up the creek on the weekends and how this can make life in prison even harder. They are told how family member may not come visit because they are too old or just don’t care. They are told everything they eat from the vegetables to the meat is grown and raise by inmates, the prison grounds are taken care of by inmates and you will get up by 5:00 a.m. and work somewhere in the prison. So it’s a long way from scared straight its called reality! Thanks to Warden Walker and Sgt Cain for starting the Department of Corrections program at ASMP and special thanks to the staff that support and volunteer their time on the weekends. This is a step in the right direction! Just maybe we can keep one from going to prison.

mgroothand
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mgroothand 08/31/08 - 01:08 pm
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Nextstep: Evidently you never

Nextstep: Evidently you never saw the program "Scared Straight" as it deals with exactly what you are describing. The two hour program was available free of charge to any television station. The setting was Rah Way (sp) prison in New Jersey and intended for troublesome teens. Most of those that went through the program were scared straight from continuing their delinquint life styles. The same kids were interviewed a year later and had the vivid memories of the prison tour that changed most of their lives.

mgroothand
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mgroothand 08/31/08 - 01:15 pm
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Incidentally, I highly

Incidentally, I highly applaud these types of programs. Personally I received a special tour of Dannemora State Prison in upstate New York, a maximum security facility where the likes of Son of Sam are incarcerated. It's a sobering, eyeopener experience I've never forgotten. The warden was a friend and fellow Rotarian, I toured for no other reason.

itamazezme
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itamazezme 08/31/08 - 10:35 pm
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why do we have to wait till

why do we have to wait till the children get into trouble to show them this "reality". shouldn't it be done mandatorily at 6th grade as a preventive measure. And don't give me the excuse that it costs because i would gladly donate.

Craig Spinks
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Craig Spinks 09/01/08 - 01:28 am
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Our kids, particularly those

Our kids, particularly those headed down the wrong path, need exposure to caring, yet "no excuses"-accepting, men like Warden Walker, Sergeant Cain, Judge Sams, Judge Saunders, Ben Hasan, Doctor Frazier, Sergeant Roundtree and Greg Davis. Such men can help our youth learn that each person owns his/her behaviors and their consequences- for good or ill. If you're a man who would like to join other such men in helping make our kids' schools better at teaching them this lesson, please send your name to DADS_IN_ACTION@yahoo.com.

just the facts 57
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just the facts 57 09/01/08 - 07:54 am
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And with all of these

And with all of these noteworthy comments, still some of our youth will take this path towards destruction, thinking that it won't happen to me because I'm too smart, careful, or street savy, or "just this one time, and I'll never do it again". Unfortunately 90% of the now jailed inmates thought the same way, and were proven to be so wrong. Thanks in part to programs like OOPS, will hopefully steer some away from a life of crime. Parents, Please get involved and help open the eyes of some of our youth, and don't push this involvement on the schools or Church. There are some bright and gifted youth in prison, and that talent is going to waste behind bars. If only that effort were used in a positive manner.

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