Can Deterrence Programs really work and save taxpayer dollars ?
By Kendal Reed, Backgate Website
Growing up in today's society is tough for teenagers. Peer pressure tops the list of issues teens face on a daily basis in Texas. Drugs, alcohol and the quick buck to be made on the street has taken hold of many teenagers, and has them poised for a trip to one of the many Texas prisons located around the state.
With correctional costs skyrocketing, the budget crunch, and staffing issues closing the doors at some Texas prisons there has to be a better way. Right ?? A community approach by TDCJ may save millions in future costs down the road say many criminal justice pundits who are speaking out. TDCJ operated a community outreach program called " Operation Kick It " some years back. That program morphed into the " Life Decisions Program " and is available to community outreach programs, school districts and other venues to spread the word....there is a better way !
TDCJ's posted statement says ; "The Life Decisions Program is designed to allow qualified offenders to travel throughout Texas to inform, educate, and advise the public (specifically young adults) about the negative consequences of poor decisions involving drugs, alcohol, crime, and gangs in an attempt to deter incarceration."
"Formerly known as "Operation Kick-It", the new Life Decisions Program emphasizes the message contained in each offender presentation that your decisions can ultimately determine your outcome in life. The program is now decentralized and operated out of 18 selected units within the six regions of the Correctional Institutions Division."
Can it work ? Many say it does, and after viewing the program for myself sometime back in a High School setting, i am also a believer. The reality of it hits home with some of the toughest kids. The organizer of that particular event included the presence of the Life Decisions Program to the schools annual presentation of the districts " Shattered Dreams " program. That program uses students to act out, and film situations like drinking and driving where students are hurt, and some even killed after indulging in that behavior. Local and state law enforcement participate, crashed vehicles placed on a highway to act out the scenario, and local EMS and even medical helicopters respond. Make-up and fake blood make the scene complete and all too real. The involved kids are taken out of school for a day to simulate their passing. Then a mock funeral is held including participation by the kids real parents who get emotionally involved.
The event ends with speakers speaking on the dangers of drugs and alcohol usage by teens, and how it could possibly end. TDCJ provided two trusty status offenders for the program. Both were escorted down the aisles in full restraints (for effect) in front of the crowd of hundreds in the auditorium as if on display. They themselves are incarcerated for killing someone while under the influence of drugs are alcohol. They told their stories to the captivated crowd who listened intently. Then they are restrained again (for effect) and led away. Can these types of programs help break the cycle of bad decisions by teens ? Should the programs be expanded and be better funded ? TDCJ does not publicize the program to the public. If it's not passed around by word of mouth, or an educator or community leader doesn't happen upon it buried on the official TDCJ website, it's unknown.
If you are involved in, or know of a community based or school district program that could benefit from this type of service, link to the TDCJ program HERE !