Inmates recounted how their lives started spiraling downhill in their pre-teens and early teens when talking candidly to eight students in the first Project Reality Check program at the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office.
Project Reality Check is a program designed to allow teens who may be disrespectful and their parents a realistic look of the day-to-day life an inmate encounters behind bars, said School Resource Officer Sgt. Bob Weeks. The adults tour the intake and booking process, while the young people experience an up-close and personal look of how life is spent incarcerated. The SRO and Detention divisions sponsor the program.
Sheriff Robert Arnold said he hopes the program will allow students to review their actions.
“We hope Project Reality Check will encourage students to change their behavior and give their parents and teachers more respect,” Sheriff Arnold said.
During the first program last Tuesday, two girls and six boys ages 11 to 16 heard from inmates inside the jail while their parents watched a video concerning some ideas on parenting skills and toured booking.
Three of the four inmates came from stable homes, while the fourth inmate related his mother used illegal drugs. One of the inmates was a promising athlete with offers to continue playing in college, but those dreams evaporated when his girlfriend became pregnant and he was caught selling marijuana three times to support them.
Some of the inmates sought gang life. Two of the four inmates were stabbed in a state prison.
Detention Deputy Keith Buford said inmate Delmiccio Tigg described how friends can impact lives.
“Friends can be like elevators,” Tigg said. “They can take you up or they can take you down.”
Sgt. Weeks said the students viewed the inside of the inmates’ pod to get an idea of what it’s like to be in jail.
“The inmates stressed the officers in detention tell them when to get up, when to go to sleep, what to wear, when to eat and when to shower,” Sgt. Weeks said.
Two inmates are assigned to a small cell where they have no privacy, especially when going to the bathroom or brushing teeth.
Parents seemed very pleased with the program, viewing it as a deterrent to their child’s unruly behavior, Sgt. Weeks said.
The children who attended the first session are not in legal trouble but show disrespect.
“It’s just become a progressive trail of making bad decisions until it snowballs into bad activities,” Sgt. Weeks said.
Parents who want to enroll their children in the two-hour program may call Sgt. Weeks at (615) 904-3066.
Deputy Buford said the next few classes will be at 9 a.m. March 11, April 8, May 13 and June 3 at the Adult Detention Center.
“Overall, if we can get one out of eight, it’s worth it,” Deputy Buford said.