This building we’re in right now was actually built in the mid 1990s When people were starting to respond to youth crime With adult consequences and people were describing kids as juveniles super predators, so they were building Adult like facilities like this part of the Bon Air campus Because they thought that was the right way to respond to kids and they forgot was they were kids How y’all doing today? How’d you get into acting? – But I had come up?
– Actually I used to be a background dancer After I got cut in my face on my 25th birthday Like directors and photographers is like they found the scar Striking I guess what would you saw yourself when he was like 15 16? I was clueless the drugs are already like starting to plague me I didn’t think I would live to see 30 That’s the life. That’s the world. We live in. That’s where you stand how you been in? two years in jail I got to do like I got to do a long time My charge is two accounts of second-degree murder and one account of malicious wounding I was just young man, I was really young And of course I don’t need to say it like that. They don’t get to know your whole background They just care about the time you did and not why you did? There’s always a reason for everything How did we come to this decision to treat mistakes that an adolescent made with adult repercussions? People were getting elected and running for office at the expense of kids in the system And they were judging kids too much by What they were doing rather than who they were and the circumstance they were in and their age when I became the director All we had left in Virginia was two facilities that were like this Not only were they built in the wrong way and too big But they’re also miles away from where a lot of kids come from so you can’t do the underlying work You need to do to make sure they go home to a better situation Family Matters Exactly and the other thing about places like this is that they eat up a lot of money But we run probation offices across the state so the kids in the facilities were fewer than 10% of the kids we worked with but they were eating up 40% of our budget and They were Reoffending at very high rates when they got out so we closed a facility that looks a lot like this earlier this year So we’re building treatment programs all over the state so that hopefully more and more kids can get what they need before they Get here or they get you how much does cost a house a kid in here? – It’s per kid, today is more than $200,000 a kid per year, which is a huge amount of money?
– Yes, sir And that’s okay if you’re spending it on the highest need highest risk kids in the system to get them on the right track, but the thing is making sure that almost every kid is someplace else and the only kids who are here are kids who there is no other place to safely work with them I got here kind of on the heels of the recession and budget cuts and a lot of the programs We used to have for kids here have been cut so young people were spending way too much time In their rooms good work doesn’t happen when they’re in their room good work happens when they’re out engaging the staff Going to school doing work, so we have made a big priority of expanding the program in here We got to make sure they leave us better off than when they came that would be the goal Can you tell me what what life was like before you got incarcerated? The hood I was living in Freshwood, Virginia. It was It’s not too good of a neighbourhood, so it was a lot of Violeta gang stuff like that You know how it be, you know, you from the streets. You know how it be so I had to fight to make it I mean if I didn’t I mean he’s a predator or a prey I did make a crime and I know I do have to pay a price, but the cost you know We never thought it’d be the rest of my life When I first got incarcerated,I got real mad and stuff, I didn’t talk to anybody You know eventually I got over like, the situation. I made the best of it so what are the things you have gotten that’s on a good note from being in here the resume I got built up such talents and tools like I’ve learned to strip floors with the machines I’ve learned to cut hair with the therapeutic portion looks like we learned here – slowing down and processing a situation and saying I really didn’t want to fight or anything like that you just Misunderstood where I’m coming from and I apologize Like and I’m seeing I’m like I never seen that a day in my life on the on the streets Do you really think that putting that much time on an adolescent is fair? Kids are very different than adults, and and and we can’t make Life-altering decisions based on things that they do When they’re young it’s not that they shouldn’t be held accountable. No not that the safety concerns We need to address but saying This is what the rest of your life looks like for something you did when you’re 15 is at odds with science, and it’s kind of at odds with all the experience we’re having with kids You know people often ask me about the kids who are here they say well you’re down to 200 Those must be the worst of the worst But you met him today did and they’re still kids with dreams, and they’re still kids with talents And they’re still kids with hope and potential if kids end up in a place like this Number one it should be after we’ve exhausted all other opportunities and number two that From the moment they wake up, which is the moment they go to bed, they’re doing something That matters to them that’s gonna get their life in the right direction and that we’re doing all we can You know to keep hope alive