Students mentor juvenile inmates

By Sharon Kolankiewicz
April 28, 2005

Imagine entering a detention center that was surrounded with 20-feet-high gates, security cameras, security guards and juvenile inmates. Two of Cabrini College’s students, juniors Jen Brown and Deidre Beadle, have been doing just that throughout this past year.

Both girls have been reaching out to female juvenile delinquents. They started a program that would require them to interact with the female inmates at the Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center.

They ran the program through the Pierce Scholarship Program. Guiding the process was Professor Natacha Boulfer-Laurentie, Dr. Mary Laver, Dr. Kathleen McKinley and Dave Rogers, the director of the detention center. Beadle and Brown are pleased with the program and look forward to continuing it. They hope their experiences will help shed a new light on a topic that most people do not understand.

According to Beadle, Boulfer-Laurentie had suggested the program at the detention center to her. Beadle became very enthusiastic about the idea and suggested the idea to Brown. Both Brown and Beadle decided to start the program that was guided by the Pierce Scholarship, a new scholarship at Cabrini. The experience, especially the first time visiting the detention center, was very nerve-racking. “The very first time we arrived, I was nervous. We also didn’t know that we would be only working with the girls,” Beadle said.

Brown was equally as nervous when the time approached to begin interacting with the girls. “I was actually nervous before we interacted. Also, the appearance is very intimidating with the 20 -feet-high gates and security,” Brown said.

Although the first few visits were tense, after several visits, Beadle and Brown were invited by the female inmates to join them in various card games. The age range of the girls are 13- 17-year-olds. Through this experience, Beadle and Brown have learned a lot about judging people.

“At first you are bombarded with these images that these are violent and uncivilized people. Once I started taking sociology courses, you think differently when you consider all of the psychological factors. You have more of an understanding,” Beadle said. Brown agrees with Beadle and admits that she underestimated the girls’ abilities and talents.

“It is hard to find the good qualities that may not be obvious: I didn’t realize their amount of talent and strength that I see in the girls there,” Brown said. Throughout the year, Beadle and Brown have recruited 12 students who signed up for the program. They both hope that the program will grow and people will understand this area a little bit more.

Although they did not work with the males, they found that the males were still more intimidating every time they walked by. “The girls are more verbal, the guys seem more intimidating because they don’t talk Brown said.

The two admit that they are more comfortable visiting the detention center. They are hoping to promote the program even more next year. Some of the issues of topic are the girls’ family, the crimes they committed and what lies in their future.

They highly encourage the other Cabrini students to become proactive and see these misunderstood people in a different and more positive light. They encourage everyone to get involved, not just sociology majors.

One of the main points that Brown and Beadle emphasize in their program is the humanity of these people. Brown suggests that people should never assume anything about anybody, even with people who are in a juvenile detention center.

Brown and Beadle understand these people are kids who have made bad choices and taken wrong turns. However, they realize that they are still humans. They take the family lifestyle and psychological factors into consideration instead of immediately placing judgment.

“I know a lot of people are interested out of curiosity, and you will get to see the humanness of people,” Brown said. Both girls also point out that the misconceptions can go both ways.

“For Cabrini students going might help with the girls accepting people like us. We may get misconceptions of them, but they may have misconceptions about us,” Brown said. Brown and Beadle say it is a learning experience. Both will continue to recruit, and they especially encourage the male students to sign up.

Posted to the web by Ryan Norris

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Sharon Kolankiewicz

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