You Are Not Ready for Prison! LaSalle Eighth Graders Hear Prisoners Speak
“You are not ready for prison! Prison is not for you. Go to school and be something. Anything you can be.” These words were spoken by an LCC inmate who realized his life choices had led him down a path for which he was unprepared and did not want.
LaSalle Sheriff Scott Franklin and LCC Warden Jeff Windham wanted 8th grade students of LaSalle Parish Schools to realize the potential consequences of negative choices in life. To accomplish this, the Youth Crime Awareness Program was created with the goal of making the consequence of time in prison a reality to the students. The reality was achieved by having students tour the LaSalle Correctional Center.
After they toured LCC’s dorms and holding cell, students listened as inmates shared the stories of how their life choices led them down a path of crime, destruction and ultimately, prison life. According to the inmates, as teenagers, they disobeyed their parents, associated with the wrong crowds and sneaked around to use tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. They wanted to “fit in” and “be cool” like their friends. That led them to want expensive cars, clothes and other material things, which soon led to drug dealing. They have regrets, now.
“The choices I made not only affected my life but the life of my parents and my children. Also, I think about my decision to sell drugs to that mom with her child in the back seat. Where is that child today? Is she using drugs because of my choice to sell drugs to her mom? I worry about her and other people whose lives I changed because of my choices”, stated an inmate.
The inmates are quoted as saying, “You have the ability to chart your own course and freedom is the ability to choose”. “You lose your freedom when you are in prison. The freedom to choose what to wear, to eat and other simple things taken for granted,” one said.
The inmates have lost relationships with friends and family because of their bad choices. One is quoted as saying, “When someone arrives for the first time, they want to be all bad but they still cry. They cry because their freedom has been taken and they can no longer see their family. Your momma can’t save you from prison”.
When the students were asked for comments, a student said that when she walked through the door, her eyes were opened and she realized she needed to help others and make better decisions for herself. She never thought before that the choices she was making were bad.
Another student realized her mom does love her after listening to the inmates’ testimonies. After hearing their stories, she now realizes that no matter how many times she said she hated her mom, her mom does love her. She can change what she has become before she ends up in jail.
Warden Windham stated, “I feel like the Youth Crime Awareness Program will benefit the youth of the parish by showing the results of wrong decisions. Most youth have never been introduced to a prison environment to see what a life of crime and bad decision-making leads to. We plan to continue to conduct this program every year so that we can possibly make a difference in the lives of youth of this parish. I have personally experienced the impact this program is making on the youth of our parish, and have received numerous phone calls from parents and grandparents thanking us for this program.”
Sheriff Franklin commented, “I feel this program will be one of the greatest influences on the lives of our children. Every young person needs to visit a prison, listen to the inmates tell their stories, and realize they too could end up here if they make wrong decisions in life.”
“Our D.A.R.E. program is a great asset in teaching our children about drug abuse, peer pressure, and cyber-bullying, along with other things,” Franklin said. “But the Youth Crime Awareness Program allows students to see first hand what can happen when they listen to so-called ‘friends’ and start following a dangerous path.”
“I, along with the staff of the LaSalle Parish Sheriff’s Office, are committed to helping our young people learn valuable lessons that we hope will stay with them throughout the lives,” he said. “We are glad to be able to join caring parents by helping our youth learn these valuable lessons.”
Inmates who met with LaSalle 8th grade students at LaSalle Correctional Center in Urania, to give their advice and own life testimonies, are praying that this information will keep these children on the right track. “Our purpose is not to welcome you, but make sure you never walk in here again,” an inmate said.
By Jenny Parker
D.A.R.E. Officer/Community Relations