Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Juvenile detention

Pin It I went to juvenile detention tonight.

A friend of mine invited me to a dinner and program being held at Slate Canyon Detention Center for the “inmates” tonight. I was buzzed in through the first set of bullet-proof security doors. As they closed behind me, locking me into an “airlock” before the inner set of doors opened, I drew in a deep breath and felt my heartbeat quicken.

I had only been into a prison twice before, and that was while serving as a missionary in the Jefferson City, Missouri area. We’d gone in at Christmastime to put on a small program for the prisoners there. This place strangely felt the same.

The feeling intensified as my friend met me and we went into the bowels of the detention center, past small glass “rooms” where family members were visiting their children who’d been brought here, consequences for the choices they’d made in their short lives. A blond-haired boy looked up at me as we passed by; he must have only been about twelve years old. The same age as the kids I teach.

As the banquet was starting I looked around the decorated “gym.” My eyes met those with a boy I remembered…only he had been a lot younger the last time I’d seen him. He was now sixteen or seventeen years old, the last time I’d seen him was when he was a third grader. He walked up to me and smiled. I talked to this young man for a few minutes, and as I did I thought of the choices he’d made which brought him to this place in time. I wondered if there might have been something I could have said or done when I was his PE teacher which might have made a difference, something which might have changed the course of his life.

After a bit he moved away and I found myself alone with my thoughts. Across the room I saw another student who’d once gone to my school, and though this boy had never been in my class, he had walked the hallways with some of his peers which were.

Seeing these boys bothered me.

What also bothered me was what I heard on the news this morning about the third grade students who had plotted to stab their teacher. As I had driven to school this morning it was all I could think of.

It affected me a lot.

It was on my mind all day.

As I walked into my own classroom and looked out at the faces of the students before me I wondered about these kids. Would any of them ever end up making choices like those kids at Center Elementary School had? Did they realize what the consequences could be of their actions? Just what their actions could do to their life?

I don’t know.

As I left Slate Canyon Detention Center tonight and was buzzed out the glass doors, I was free to leave. As I climbed into my car and drove away I couldn’t help but still think about the kids who were still up there.

It bothers me still.


cari said...

This life is getting scarier and scarier every day. It's hard to think that some kids (especially such young kids) are thinking in the terms they are. There are so many people now that don't think of consequences. Either that or they just don't care about the consequences. It's really scary. That must have been hard to see those boys there last night.

Kris said...

At our school I get to listen a lot to kids in the halls, bathrooms, lunch, and on the playground. It is amazing what they talk about. My lunch aide ( she is eighteen ) and I talk about where some of these kids will be in 5 to 10 yrs. Its anything from Big business to jail. I have had run ins with bad parents this year and I see that it does start at home with a lot of them. We have drilled in their heads that there is consequences.

Gerb said...

I used to interpret in these types of situations often. I eventually realized I needed to say no to those assignments because it was hard for me to see those who had ended up there due to bad choices. Especially when they looked like clean-cut, nice kids - the ones least expected.

Anonymous said...

I remember going to visit my nephew. Who is now in prison. He was the smartest kid in his class, quiet, and shy. He obviously made some bad choices. For years he said he'd change, and I use to believe him. I don't think he can change until he really wants it bad enough.
I always thought I was helping him, until he got sent back over and over. I send birthday cards, and holiday cards with my love, but that is as far as I go now. I feel guilty sometimes because I don't want him to feel like he isn't loved.
I feel bad for my sister.(his mom)
I see how hurt she is. Does he realize or care? I think sometimes..He doesn't care. It is all about him. Will he change? Maybe...but will it be too late? Is is ever too late?
It makes me wonder if they just get use to living behind bars, and don't know how to live out in the world?
I think he got lost and just couldn't find his way back, even with all of the help he was offered. Maybe he didn't want to be helped. We can't make their choices, only set guide lines and hope they use them. I really miss who he use to be.
I told him that I would always love him...but couldn't allow what he was doing, and who he had become to be around me or my children.
I use to feel sorry for him. I don't anymore. He had plenty of other options,and still does. He chooses not to use them.
Remembering the way I felt going into that place bothered still does just to think about it.

Emily said...

It's interesting you went in there. We live so close but to me it's just a building. I guess I have never really taken the time to think about the many lives that are affected by those inside.

By the way, I'm a cat.

Julie said...

What an experience. Things are getting really scary out there, and it is bothersome. It makes you really stop to think.

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