What It's Like To Volunteer At A Juvenile Correctional Center

What It's Like To Volunteer At A Juvenile Correctional Center

Some deserve a second chance
78
views

Last semester, I volunteered at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center in Bon Air, Virginia, near Richmond. It's a coed facility serving both young men and women that range from ages 14 to 20. These residents have been committed by the juvenile court and convicted of an assortment of crimes, from small misdemeanors to serious felonies. The facility offers them educational, vocational, mental health, and rehabilitative counseling services, as well as academic and vocational training. They may also be placed in specialized treatment programs for substance abuse, aggression management, sex offenses, and intensive therapeutic programming. Residents are able to earn a high school diploma or general equivalency degree while at the facility. Recreational, religious and volunteer programming is also available to residents. Communication with family members by mail and phone calls is encouraged. However, family members are only able to visit the facility once a week.

I specifically worked with the Pathways Program at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center. Pathways is a private, non-profit community development corporation that works to rebuild and strengthen the city of Richmond and, more importantly, its young men and women in need of help and guidance. It strives to be a neighborhood partner that effectively builds pathways to employment, good health, and a revitalized community. Pathways’ vision for Richmond is to create a community that offers a quality of life for all to live, work, learn and thrive. The program believes that the city has the ability to become a commercial community with good schools, a strong housing market, safe streets, and public and recreational services for everyone. In order to make this vision a success, Pathways must continue to stand as a catalyst for the spiritual, social, and economic revitalization of Richmond while still awakening hope.

The social issue that Bon Air’s Pathways Program addresses is delinquency among youth. Some of the crimes committed range from minor offenses to major felonies. The majority of the causes behind these acts include poverty, gangs, drugs, neglect, abuse, or simply the neighborhood that children are raised in.

One key element of the strategy for addressing the problem of delinquency employed by Pathways is to treat the residents as what they are: human beings. Ashley Williams, Pathways’ Retention Coordinator, led the sessions that I attended with the group. The boys adored “Miss Ashley,” and the volunteers idolized her just as much. On the first day of volunteering, one of the first things that Ashley told the other volunteers was that this was a peer mentorship. We are not just teaching the residents, they are teaching us as well. This idea was one that stuck with me throughout my time with Pathways this semester.

Every evening that we meet with our Pathways group, we sat in a circle and checked-in with the residents by asking how their weeks had been going. Check-in was followed by a listening activity in which each volunteer was paired with one resident. The activity began with Ashley reading out a question that one partner had to answer while the other would listen. Afterward, Ashley asked the room if partners found any similarities in answers or what people thought of each other’s answers. The session typically ended with a group activity, such as crossword puzzle competitions or recreational sports, and volunteers and residents had the opportunity to mingle with one another. And, of course, every activity was accompanied with a delicious snack.

One evening, one of the residents asked me if I played any sports in high school. I told him that I loved playing basketball, even though I wasn't that good. The resident immediately stood up from out of his chair and screamed, "Miss Ashley? Can you arrange a basketball game for us next week? We got to get Colby out on the court." Ashley did just that.

We first participated in some drills to get us warmed up for the game. I was surprisingly draining all of my baskets, and teased the other residents for not being "as good as me." When it was time to play the game, all of the residents wanted me on their team, so Ashley picked the teams to make them fair. I ended up on the team with the young man that requested an evening of basketball. It was tie-game for the majority of the time until I happened to make the winning basket. The residents on my team got on their knees and started bowing down, saying "All hail Colby!"

I believe that casually spending time with the Pathways boys and not drawing attention to the fact that they are all there for a reason is the best possible strategy to address delinquent behavior. During a separate session, Ashley asked residents to name their favorite day of the week. The boy I was partnered with smiled and answered "Mondays," the same day volunteers came to visit. He proceeded to explain that, after being locked up with the same people all week, he had Monday nights to look forward to because a group of people willingly decided to come in and spend time with him and his fellow inmates.

The Pathways Program can be improved in a number of ways, from assisting residents in preparing for interviews to sharing common practices in the workplace for when they are able to leave the facility. On my last night of volunteering, one of the young men had filled me in on his potential plans for the future. He said that the following day one of his supervisors was going to bring him a list of smaller, private schools that he had a chance of getting into once he was released. He also told me that he was expected to have a shorter sentence than planned. If this were the case, he would attend community college in his area and search for a job to get him back on his feet. He said he was very nervous because, if interviews were involved, he was not confident that he would be able to present himself well, and that his not-so-clean record would be an issue. Therefore, I believe that providing counselors or other types of resources that inform residents of what to expect when working for their first job or how to confidently prepare for an interview would be very beneficial.

I had a very good experience working as a volunteer for the Pathways Program at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center. My experience was so pleasant that I hope to find time in my schedule next semester to return and continue working with the residents.

Cover Image Credit: 123rf

Popular Right Now

I'm A Woman And You Can't Convince Me Breastfeeding In Public Is OK In 2019

Sorry, not sorry.

47142
views

Lately, I have seen so many people going off on social media about how people shouldn't be upset with mothers breastfeeding in public. You know what? I disagree.

There's a huge difference between being modest while breastfeeding and just being straight up careless, trashy and disrespectful to those around you. Why don't you try popping out a boob without a baby attached to it and see how long it takes for you to get arrested for public indecency? Strange how that works, right?

So many people talking about it bring up the point of how we shouldn't "sexualize" breastfeeding and seeing a woman's breasts while doing so. Actually, all of these people are missing the point. It's not sexual, it's just purely immodest and disrespectful.

If you see a girl in a shirt cut too low, you call her a slut. If you see a celebrity post a nude photo, you call them immodest and a terrible role model. What makes you think that pulling out a breast in the middle of public is different, regardless of what you're doing with it?

If I'm eating in a restaurant, I would be disgusted if the person at the table next to me had their bare feet out while they were eating. It's just not appropriate. Neither is pulling out your breast for the entire general public to see.

Nobody asked you to put a blanket over your kid's head to feed them. Nobody asked you to go feed them in a dirty bathroom. But you don't need to basically be topless to feed your kid. Growing up, I watched my mom feed my younger siblings in public. She never shied away from it, but the way she did it was always tasteful and never drew attention. She would cover herself up while doing it. She would make sure that nothing inappropriate could be seen. She was lowkey about it.

Mindblowing, right? Wait, you can actually breastfeed in public and not have to show everyone what you're doing? What a revolutionary idea!

There is nothing wrong with feeding your baby. It's something you need to do, it's a part of life. But there is definitely something wrong with thinking it's fine to expose yourself to the entire world while doing it. Nobody wants to see it. Nobody cares if you're feeding your kid. Nobody cares if you're trying to make some sort of weird "feminist" statement by showing them your boobs.

Cover up. Be modest. Be mindful. Be respectful. Don't want to see my boobs? Good, I don't want to see yours either. Hard to believe, I know.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

My Hometown Just Experienced A Mass Shooting, If We Don't Do Something, Yours Could Be Next

You never think it will happen to you until it does.

157
views

I was on my way out the door to work when I got a panicked call from my mother.

"Can you look at the news online?" she said quickly. "There is a mass shooting somewhere nearby."

My heart stopped. For me, Aurora, Illinois is home. I was born there, I grew up around the area and I attended high school there. My siblings go to school close by and my boyfriend works for a neighboring fire department.

How could my beloved hometown become the victim of the latest tragedy?

After calling my boyfriend, who was at the fire station getting ready to deploy ambulances to the scene, I discovered that it had taken place at a factory nearby. My anxiety hit an all-time high as I watched the updates on all of the local city Facebook pages and groups. Officers down. Gunman at large. Mass casualties.

Hours later, all of the facts came out. A former employee of Henry Pratt's Company, a local industrial warehouse, had recently been let go and decided to get revenge. He entered the warehouse with a gun and began to shoot at random, killing five people and wounding many others, including five police officers. He was killed by local SWAT forces.

I am the kind of person who is pro-gun and pro-gun rights because of the second amendment and all of the freedoms I believe we deserve. But that doesn't make what happened okay and it never will.

While this situation doesn't change my mind, it does change my view of the world.

Why would somebody decide that shooting former coworkers was the way to go? Why would anyone want to hurt others? These are the questions that flooded my mind in the hours after the mass shooting. I don't necessarily think we have a gun issue in America, but issues with mental health and valuing life.

We pass bills to kill unborn children. We repeal bills that take away healthcare from million. We devalue life in its most basic form and respect those around us to still have enough respect for each other's lives. We stigmatize those who need psychiatric care and expect things to still be alright.

This is not alright.

Our country, our system, our values, and morals, they are all broken and backward. We have let mass shootings become normal and violence becomes accepted. It needs to be stopped. There needs to be a change.

One of the people killed was an intern from a local college during his first day on the job. Being a college student applying to internships myself, this hit far too close to home. Nobody deserves to die, least of all in their place of work while trying to further their career.

Five people lost their lives due to someone's disrespect of them. Yes, a gun was the weapon, but a mind was the actor. I pray that someday, our country will return to valuing life and respecting others enough to help them instead of pushing them away. This is not the first mass shooting, but it can be the last. If, and only if, we make sure of it.

If you want to help the victim's families in any way, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with funeral expenses

Related Content

Facebook Comments