March, 12 2014
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Georgia Sherriff Aims to Scare Troubled Teens Straight
A dozen innocent-faced girls decked out in orange jumpsuits march single file through the halls of the Floyd County Jail.
A blonde teenager steps forward, responding quickly when asked what brought her to Sheriff Tim Burkhalter’s new program aimed redirecting the misguided paths of at-risk youth.
“Meth,” the young girl says, explaining how she became a junkie at age 12. “I hung out with the wrong people, and my mom used it, too.”
A Program that Provides a New Perspective
The girls — all students at a local alternative school — got a first-hand view of life behind bars Tuesday at the jail.
They are the first graduating class of the Turning Point program.
And Burkhalter hopes the experience of being locked in a cell with real-life convicts will serve as a wake-up call to teens insistent on causing trouble.
“This jail is a place for losers,” the sheriff said. “A lot of people are lost in here because someone failed them in their life.
Giving Troubled Teens a feel for what it's Really Like
“We wanted to show kids that jail is not the place they see on TV or in rap videos. So, we decided to develop this program to let them know what it’s really like.”
After being booked into the jail and given a county-issued blanket and a plastic laundry tub, the girls were led to a group holding cell and introduced to a handful of female inmates.
“This is like prison,” said deputy Jonathan Chisolm. “You get identified as being weak or pretty in here,
you become somebody’s ‘special friend.’”
Advice from Inmates
“Phyllis,” a 36-year-old mother, told the girls her path to jail began with fighting other girls and disobeying her parents’ orders.
She said she became pregnant — “before I knew how to be a mother” — and then a drug addict.
“I am pitiful right now,” she said.
“Floyd County Jail ain’t no joke. I hate this place,” she added. “If y’all come here, you’re going to break down and do something — even if it’s sexually.”
Another inmate told the girls she is facing 25 years in prison for her crimes. She reminded the teens they could still choose how their lives will turn out.
“You are not going to remember half of your life if you are doing drugs,” she said. “If you don’t make the right choices now, this is the next step.”
Deputy Sherree Burns told the group to stop blaming family members or other parental figures for failing them.
“Sometimes you’ve got to pick up the pieces and move on,” she said.
Will the Program Change These Troubled Teens?
As the girls prepared to leave the jail, a pregnant 17-year-old said the program “really made me think about my choices and what I do in the future.”
Added the young blonde who used meth: “I have already changed. I am not going to let myself or my little 4-year-old sister follow in my mother’s footsteps.”
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New Residential Treatment Center in Alabama to Help with Anorexia, Bulimia 11/28/07
Wisconsin Based Challenge Academy Helps Troubled Teens 11/27/07
North Carolina Residential Program Enlists Santa's Helper 11/23/07
Utah Troubled Teen Program Gives Back 11/23/07
Program Helps Florida Troubled Teen 11/22/07
Illinois School May be Used as a Residential Treatment Center 11/21/07
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