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With drugs, gangs and violent crime an ever-present problem for many young people in Lancaster County, Sheriff Barry Faile believes the time has come for an innovative wake-up call.
After years of hearing pleas from frustrated parents fretting that their children are heading down the wrong path, Faile and the sheriff’s office have developed an interesting approach to hopefully curb future lives of crime.
“From time to time we have parents request us to come and speak with their kids who are making poor decisions and we do that,” Faile said. “So we figured we would try and implement a program to help them; to facilitate awareness and let kids know the consequences for poor decisions and dangerous behavior.”
Enter the “Crossroads” program, a new initiative announced this week by the sheriff’s office.
The program, which has its roots in the well-known “Scared Straight” program, is designed to work with troubled youth who are at an important crossroads in their life, Faile said.
Geared toward youth 12 to 16 years old, the program will expose them to the dangers of criminal activity, its impact and implications.
The program will be facilitated by deputies, with local community organizations lending a hand with some of the educational sessions.
“We’re extremely excited about this program. We are confident that we will be able to guide a young person away from a life of crime and dangerous behavior,” Faile said.
“Our children are our most valuable resources and the sheriff’s office is committed to helping protect and educate them.”
Participants will begin the program at 5:30 p.m. when they will be “sentenced” to one night of incarceration at a detention facility.
During the program, the youth will wear inmate clothing, eat inmate meals, clean cells and participate in physical fitness training. They will also attend educational sessions about drug abuse, criminal activity and dangerous behavior.
Though the self-contained program will not have the participants interact with actual inmates, Faile said there will be several speakers.
“We’ll have certain guest speakers come in and talk about their different life experiences,” he said.
The program will end the following morning after the participants spend the night in jail cells.
Faile said they aren’t targeting one specific problem through the program, but instead want to focus on the lasting consequences of criminal behavior.
“What kids don’t really understand is what they do today will follow them for the rest of their lives. They are thinking of the moment and not the next five or 10 years, and not about the consequences,” he said. “We want to teach ’em about those consequences if they mess with narcotics, if they join a gang or if they use a firearm.”
Parents will also be involved in the program, he said. Any parent who registers their child in the program will attend a workshop designed to help them learn techniques to deal with their troubled child more effectively.
Faile said the program is “100 percent voluntary” and parents may register their child beginning immediately for the first session. Boys and girls will be separated and attend separate sessions, which will alternate on the third Friday of each month.
Space is limited to seven participants for each session and applications will be accepted on a first-come-first-served basis. Four sessions have been scheduled for the remainder of 2013.
“We haven’t had anyone sign up yet, but I don’t think it will take long before we’ll have our first class filled up,” Faile said.
Additional sessions will follow the same schedule and will be announced via the sheriff’s office website and Facebook page.
“We hope that the program will truly make a difference in a child’s life,” he said. “We would much rather spend this time with the child then have to arrest or bury that child later in life. Our staff has worked hard organizing the program and we can’t wait to get started.”
Interested in the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office ‘Crossroads’ program?
The voluntary “Crossroads” program officially opened registration for parents this week. Youth ages 12 to 16 are eligible for participation, though boys and girls will be separated and attend separate sessions. Registration forms are available at the front desk of the sheriff’s office Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. A registration fee of $25, or $50 for out-of-county residents, is due at the time of registration. Programs will be held on the third Friday of each month and registrations are due by the Wednesday prior to the scheduled event. Each month will alternate between male and female participants. Space is limited to seven participants for each session and applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Scheduled sessions for the rest of the year include: Sept. 20 (male only), Oct. 18 (female only), Nov. 15 (male only) and Dec. 20 (female only).
For more information, visit www.lacoso.net/.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416