Where does the future of our society lie? Within us, the youth, both incarcerated and free. We are the future doctors, future veterans, and future congressmen. Therefore, if a great deal of our youth are been incarcerated, it leads us to an unstable future.
Recent research shows that every year there is approximately 70,800 of our youth being incarcerated and 67.8% of those released, return within the next 5 years.
Those teenagers are released with the same negative mindsets and behavior problems that they entered with; which influences other teens to pick up those negative traits. That’s due to the lack of knowledge, lack of support, and lack of opportunity.
By lack of knowledge, I mean, people within the community are telling us young people that we can get away with things because we are young, and that it won't affect our future. So, we go out thinking we can get away with anything, when we really can't.
Then when we’re actually in jail, we have people telling us all the wrong ways to make money and "not get caught," so they say. The sad part is youth, if released, start telling other youth the same things they were told.
By lack of support, I mean... well lets share something personal with you. I come from a smart family of males who make not so bright decisions. I've watched almost every older male in my family go to jail and I grew up with people telling me I will be just like them.
Now I'm here, and here, people make you feel unwanted, useless and abandoned and judged you to be a menace to society and don't want to have anything to do with you. We go to jail to pay our debts to society, but once released, we still feel we are paying that debt.
Now imagine this for lack of opportunity: it’s a Friday morning, you’ve been suspended from school, and there is nothing productive for you to do. So you find ways cure your boredom that are not positive, which leads you to be in jail. I don’t have to imagine that. This is my story, and here within the jail, there is nothing productive or positive for you to do to obtain good knowledge to take with you once released. That leaves you with no new knowledge, no type of support, and as a result, no real opportunity once out of jail.
That can be prevented through this wonderful project to train teenagers, officers, and community members over 6 months where they're taught to reflect on their own experiences, taught public speaking skills, the history of oppression such as poverty and incarceration and lastly how to craft solutions to address these issues.
Step 2: With the support of the Sheriff’s Office speak to others and share their experience on reducing youth violence, and preventing youth incarceration. We’d also like to facilitate activities at juvenile court, to help those there be prevented from being at Jail East being tried as adults.
Step 3: After a year in this program those young men will become mentors for the next year’s group of Incarcerated Youth Speaking Out for Change.
I know that this program will work because I know what changed my mindset and this is it. I also know the firsthand impact that youth speaking to youth can have. It is way easier to hear something from someone your own age who knows from experience what they are sharing. Last month I went to Bolton High School, and spoke to a room full of teenagers, and shared with them my experiences of being in jail and my determination to make a change. And, I watched their way of looking at life change just like mine did.
Lastly, the reason you should vote for my idea is because we need solutions that include the insights and knowledge of people who have experienced the problem firsthand. In the last year, we’ve reflected over our own experiences and developed a list of recommendations to improve our schools, our jails and our city that would have help prevent us from being here. And if you would like to pick up a list of those recommendations, you can pick it up from our booth in the back.
The work that we are doing is changing our lives, changing our jails and changing our community. It takes countless hours of training, supplies and equipment for workshops and communications. In for this to work in a sustainable way in the next year, we are seeking to raise $20,000. It’s hard work, long hours and new direction for an old system. Together we can do better. If you want to make a change, take my hand, take a stand and take the first step towards the future.