Helping At-risk Youth Avoid Criminal Decisions

By · Monday, January 19th, 2009

I enjoy contributing to a program at Taft Camp that strives to help at-risk adolescents avoid criminal behavior. As federal prisoners, those of us who participate in the group have a degree of credibility with those who sit in our audiences. With the 45-year sentence that I’m serving, and the 21-plus years that I’ve been confined, I know that the kids really listen to what I have to say.

A staff member from the camp oversees our group, which operates under the name TOAD, and acronym for Those Outspoken Against Drugs. The staff sponsors coordinate meetings for our group to travel to Bakersfield or other Kern County Communities so we can make our presentation. In addition to telling stories of what led each of us to prison, we also perform skits that dramatize the ways that peer pressure can lead to crimes and punishment.

Early this morning I wrote out a skit that our group will perform for an audience in late January. The skit involves a planned burglary that falls apart. It shows how conspiracy laws can lead to imprisonment, with stiff mandatory-minimum sentences, even though the burglary never took place.

We have other skits that dramatize gang problems, drug trafficking, grand theft auto, and other crimes that tempt at-risk youth. Following the performance of our skits and our personal presentations, we open the floor for questions and respond to the students candidly.

This outreach program allows those of us who participate in TOAD to contribute to society. Such activities bring a bit more meaning to our lives, and we hope that the message dissuades some from criminal decisions.

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One Response to “Helping At-risk Youth Avoid Criminal Decisions”

  1. Carole says:

    This is a wonderful project that is changing the lives of kids who are headed down the path of gang-related and criminal behavior.