Community Involvement, Rehabilitation

At‑risk students attend VSP Youth Diversion

At-risk students wearing red coveralls enter the Valley State Prison (VSP) gates.
The VSP Youth Diversion Program sees at-risk youth visit prison to learn about life behind the walls.

Students learn about consequences of poor choices

At-risk students from local schools recently visited Valley State Prison (VSP) for insight regarding life as a prisoner behind the walls.

(Related: Watch a video of the CCWF Youth Diversion Program.)

Seventeen at-risk youth arrived at the VSP front entrance building at 0800 hours sharp. Youth Diversion Program Custody Facilitators Officer J. McKesson, Capt. R. Boozer and Sgt. B. Davi met the students when they arrived.

Before entering the prison, the youth were briefed regarding rules and guidelines. The students then placed all personal belongings into plastic bags and donned red coveralls. Custody staff and incarcerated mentors escorted the youth as they toured recreation yards, dining halls, and housing units.

After the tour, the at-risk youth were escorted to the VSP Main Yard Gymnasium for lunch. Here, youth met with and spoke to the mentors.

A powerful part of the program occurs when the mentors facilitate a victims’ impact class. Several mentors shared personal stories describing how the choices they made as teenagers affected many lives, including the victim and the victim’s family.

After the class, the at-risk youth were paired with mentors for individual one-on-one conversations. They focused on issues relating to accountability, mental health, anger management, drug abuse and gang affiliations.

At the end of the day, all the youth attendees received certificates of completion. They also thanked staff and mentors for their time and effort.  

“Sometimes a fresh perspective is all these youth need. The Youth Diversion Program mentors did an awesome job in effectively communicating without resorting to screaming,” said Capt. Boozer.

According to staff facilitators, mentors gained the trust of the at-risk youth through actively listening, showing respect and expressing concern. 

What is the VSP Youth Diversion Program?

Three custody staff selected by the administration and 17 incarcerated mentors make up the Youth Diversion Program.

Incarcerated mentors are vetted and recommended by custody and non-custody staff. Then the mentor candidates must apply and successfully complete an interview process.

Once selected, mentors are required to lead by example and maintain a positive attitude. They also must remain discipline and drug-free.

 Submitted by Lt. H. Gastelum

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