Teens get glimpse of life behind bars of county jail

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 12, 2004

A short trip on Friday could have changed lives forever.

Friday morning Jail administrator Albert McKee and his staff welcomed 21 young men and women from Butler County into the County Jail.

The trip was designed to show the youth how lonely and structured life on the inside could be.

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Sheriff Dianne Harris, McKee and the Butler County SUMMER LIFT (linking infrastructure for teens) program set up the trip.

McKee said he hoped the tour would open the eyes of the children to just how different life in jail could be.

&uot;We felt this would prepare them for where they don’t want to be,&uot; said McKee. &uot;This will be the end result if they go on the other side of the law.&uot;

McKee said the tour would let them know how good they have it on the outside.

&uot;We can bring them here and show them that you can’t go to the refrigerator when you get ready,&uot; said McKee. &uot;You can’t just use the phone when you want to.&uot;

The tour was also set up to give the kids a new respect for their parents.

Many children in their age group feel like their parents don’t understand and have them in a sort of prison.

By taking the tour the children learned their parents are just looking out for them and things can be a lot worse if they stray.

&uot;If they think they are controlled at home they haven’t seen anything,&uot; said McKee. &uot;Things are a lot worse when you are in a penal institution.&uot;

Many children see the jail from the outside. They see the gates and the barbed wire but they never get the full effect.

McKee hoped that by letting them inside they would get the full flavor of the jail.

&uot;They always get to see the outside but never really get a feel for what it can be like in here,&uot; said McKee.

&uot;We want to let them in there. Let them get a feel for that. We’ll then tell them to magnify that times a year of time. That can be pretty powerful thing.&uot;

Coming into the jail also stresses just how much freedom there is on the outside.

&uot;It’s a completely controlled environment,&uot; said McKee. &uot;You can’t do all things you used to like to do.&uot;

The main message of the tour was for the youngsters to stay in school.

&uot;Get that education,&uot; said McKee. &uot;A good education can give you credentials. Credentials open windows.&uot;

The Butler County Summer LIFT Program plans to take many more trips this summer.

The program will be taking trips every Friday throughout the summer.

Leander Robinson, who helps to head up the group, felt the first trip of the summer had been a good choice.

&uot;We wanted to take a trip in our own area and let them see something,&uot; said Robinson. &uot;We got in touch with Sheriff Harris and everyone else and they approved the trip. This is our first trip and we just wanted to give them a chance to see our Butler County Jail.

His wife Lois Robinson, Betty Clems, Reggie Whittle and Travis Waters also help with the program.