Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Wichita NAACP Debate Program gets underway in the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch Juvenile Detention Facility

Today was the first day of our new Debate Program within the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch Juvenile Detention Facility. Today we met with our new group of young men ranging in age from 16 through 18. President Kevin Myles and Branch Member and School Board member Betty Arnold are the coaches for the program. On a personal level, it was great to see these young men who are incarcerated for anti-social behavioral problems, thinking, smiling, learning, working together and challenging themselves. The program was only intended to meet on a monthly basis, but at the request of the young men, we will now look to expand the program to bi-weekly...

The JRBR serves male juvenile offenders with serious behavior problems from an urban setting, ages 13-18, that have been found guilty in juvenile court and ordered into state’s custody for placement outside their homes at a community-based residential program. Approximately 50% of the juveniles are in custody for misdemeanor offenses, after they have failed standard probation and intensive probation in the community. The other half are felony offenders, including those with convictions for person crimes such as aggravated robbery, aggravated assault and aggravated burglary. JRBR youth are typically very far behind in their education; many need outpatient substance abuse treatment, mental health care and counseling to address criminal behavior, anger management, empathy, grief and family issues.

Through our structured debate program, we model and teach effective communication, critical thinking, rules of decorum, and conflict resolution skills. Through this program, we plan to drive down recidivism rates by working directly with juvenile offenders and at-risk youth and equipping them with the skills they need to express themselves in a positive manner, to advocate on their own behalf, to bring about change through reason, and to traverse difficult and trying situations without resorting to anger or anti-social behaviors.

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