Breaking the Cycle of Crime
For more information visit these links:
Show 1712: Breaking the Cycle of Crime
Air Date: March 19, 2017
Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Well, there is growing consensus that Oklahoma can no longer afford to approach crime and punishment as it has. Each year, we imprison more people per capita than 47 of the 50 states, and the cost – over $20,000 a head annually. But a program targeting juvenile offenders hopes to break the all too typical cycle of crime and punishment. Our Blane Singletary shows us how.
Blane Singletary: Out here in Weatherford, in these tranquil surroundings, you probably couldn’t tell that this is a group home for juvenile offenders.
Kent Roof: This is one of our Level E group homes. It’s kind of a step down program for these incarcerated juveniles to step down from an OJA facility and institution.
Blane: Kent Roof is regional director of Skills Centers for CareerTech. And skills training is the focus of the Cedar Canyon Adventure Program.
Roof: This is a holistic approach to making our students successful.
Blane: All of the facilities on the grounds here are designed to build up these 16 to 18 year olds in such a way that they won’t repeat the same mistakes that got them here. And one of the main ways they do that is by building things themselves. Wes Warren is the program director for Cedar Canyon.
Wes Warren: They’re here because they made some poor decisions, but they’re also here to try to get their life back together.
Blane: These boys enter this program in the last seven months of their sentence, and for many of them, this is the light at the end of the tunnel.
Warren: We teach them some job skills so they go back into their community and hopefully go into a construction component, a job site or restaurant whatever it may be.
Blane: No matter what career path they decide to take, the hope is that they will use what they’ve learned here in the shop. Keith Musick is the instructor.
Keith Musick: If there’s anything that they’re gonna be, they can be an astronaut, they can be a scientist, they can be an artist, they can be whatever they want to be, but one thing they’re gonna be is incredibly useful. If all the power goes out, they’re gonna know how to build and fix things with their hands. And that’s what we teach here, it’s a foundation and a basic set of skills that allow you to feel useful and be proud of the skills that you’ve built.
Blane: And while one might not think these young men would ever want to pick up a hammer and saw, many of them have really taken to this program.
Omar: Learning’s gotta be my favorite part, just getting into it. You know, doing all this and doing everything we do right now you see. That’s my favorite part, just getting my hands on and all that stuff, you know.
Malik: I’ve built a lot of cabinets since I’ve been here, took them all to my grandma’s.
Dominic: I could be having a bad day, but as soon as I step out in the shop or like other things, get my mind off those bad things. It definitely helps out a lot here.
Blane: And it isn’t just busy work. In their time here, they can work on becoming certified carpenters, earn their GED and carry it forward to more skills training or straight into a job. Counselor Bethany Armentrout says this variety of activities is exactly what these teens need.
Bethany Armentrout: There’s so much need for exposure in different areas to target different things. Even though they’re standing, you know, using a hammer or a drill or a miter saw, Mr. Musick does a fantastic job on exposing them to leadership opportunities, teaching them how to work together, troubleshoot things. It’s conflict resolution even though they may not be in my office terming it that way. They’re working through that in all arenas.
Blane: Certification is a plus, but it’s the skills they learn off-paper that can be the most important.
Musick: The biggest part in what we do is not the tool use. I tell them if they get out of this program and they know how to swing a hammer, they know how to use a saw, that’s all well and good. But it’s more important to me that they leave here better men. It’s more important to me that they learn how to communicate with people properly, with one another properly – that they know how to walk in and be professional and be courteous and how to speak confidently.
Blane: Programs like the one at Cedar Canyon don’t just give these teens a clean slate. They fill in that slate with the skills they will need on the outside, to stay on the outside, and that’s a challenge. According to “Oklahoma Watch,” one-third of juveniles placed in Level E group home facilities like this one re-offended later in life. But with this program still in its early days and the people behind it standing by to help even after these boys are released, there is hope that those numbers can turn around.
Armentrout: The kids need us. So many times in their lifetime, they couldn’t count on anyone. Someone said that they were gonna come through for them in one way or another and didn’t do it. I come here because there’s 16 boys dependent on that, and it’s not just me. They depend on all of us to be here, working together to help them.
Roof: You know, CareerTech can’t do it. Family counseling can’t service, but all of us together we can do it, make an improvement, and help these guys be successful.
Blane: They say it takes a village to raise a child, and from what many here are saying, that holds true for those who need to be raised back up.
Musick: We’re trying to change these guys’ lives. We’re trying to make them better men — prepare them for real-world situations, prepare them to get a job, prepare them to re-enter society and be productive, be positive, be professional. That’s what I’m here for, and that’s what this program is all about.
Rob: When we return, helping those in the deadly grip of addiction.