In the last post I mentioned Phillip and the eight year-old boy inmate in the little orange jumpsuit. They haunt me to this day.
At the privatized kid jail, the priority was to make money. I have nothing against making money, but my priority was to do a good job, which supposedly was rehabilitating the kids so they could re-enter society as productive citizens.
My priority kept running smack into the cement wall of their shadow priority of profit-making. If you know anything about adolescent boys, you know they have lots of energy and do better when they have lots of things to do. Since our jail was so cheap, the kids didn’t have any schools supplies, pencils, books, or games. The boys were supposed to sit quietly in plastic chairs for hours between scheduled activities.
As a result they caused grief and then lost points, which meant their sentence was extended. I thought this was bad. I didn’t know longer sentences meant more money for the profit-making company that ran the jail. Silly me.
I spent my own money to buy my 20 guys school supplies, collected books from friends and bought them some board games-they really got into Monopoly. The other 20 guys felt left out, so I worked out a reward system so they could “buy” supplies. They worked their butts off to get these little rewards.
I started a Superstars program. Ten kids with the highest weekly scores got a star sticker to wear on their jumpsuit (it was pitiful how proud they were of that sticker) and one hour in the staff dining room to eat something yummy and just relax. Friends and church family members took requests for the yummy thing-I remember one with brownies and chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
We just ate and chatted like normal human being beings for one hour-about any subject they chose. You would NOT BELIEVE how hard they worked to be a Superstar, to be a normal person for one hour.
And somehow that memory is causing my eyes to tear up, so please excuse me for a moment.
What can one person do? If you have a local juvenile detention center, ask what they need and get together with others and try to provide it.
Oppose privatization of social services.