Rankin jail is a model to keep teens from returning - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Rankin jail is a model to keep teens from returning

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Staff and county leaders believe positive reinforcement and giving teen criminals new options for the future are behind the success. Staff and county leaders believe positive reinforcement and giving teen criminals new options for the future are behind the success.
The facility was on display Thursday afternoon when four national caucuses of color from the National Conference of State Legislatures took a tour. The facility was on display Thursday afternoon when four national caucuses of color from the National Conference of State Legislatures took a tour.
RANKIN COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The numbers speak for themselves, a 7.63% recidivism rate decline in just one year at the Rankin County Juvenile Justice Center. In fiscal year 2011-2012 the recidivism rate was 22.26%, that dropped to 14.63% in fiscal year 2012-2013.

Staff and county leaders believe positive reinforcement and giving teen criminals new options for the future are behind the success.  

"We work with the children's strengths, as opposed to always pointing out their weaknesses," said Rankin County Youth Court Judge Tom Broome.  

"We've had kids come to the detention and say, finally I'm somewhere where someone cares," recalled Rankin County Sheriff's Department Juvenile Administrator Michelle Rhodes.

The facility was on display Thursday afternoon when four national caucuses of color from the National Conference of State Legislatures took a tour. The RCJJC was chosen as a model site for the visiting lawmakers.

Rhodes believes when kids know they're taken care of, physically, medically and  spiritually, they're behavior can change.

"A lot of these kids are beat down, they're hurt, they're mad, they're angry. A lot of them are on drugs and we meet the kids where they are at, not where we think they should be," explained Rhodes.

Programs build other values, including setting goals and work ethic.  
Sheriff Bryan Bailey helps teens work toward completing a 5K on the Sheriff's Youth Run Team. Some are even working to run a marathon.   
Bailey also began "Paws for a Cause." The animal control unit brings non-aggressive and trainable dogs to the facility. The kids take care of them before the animals are adopted.  

"We let the dogs roam freely inside there. They go in the cells with them. If the kid is having a bad time or something like that, the staff will let them have one of the dogs for a while, and that just soothes and calms the whole atmosphere," Bailey told of the emotional advantages of the program.

At least 20 counties pay to house teen criminals at the Pelahatchie facility. The building can house 42 offenders.

Staff prefer to keep the numbers low, especially during the school year.
Offenders are given and assessment and brought up to speed academically while incarcerated. Three teachers from the Rankin County School District are employed full-time at RCJJC.
  
Bailey believes in the staff and things you can't put a price tag, such as being a positive influence or role model for children, are the reasons behind the drop in return offenders.  
He says our society needs more family values and people willing to help.

"If we don't figure out something to turn around and help these people that are less fortunate than us, with our time, with our money, with our efforts they're gonna drag us all down. You know, all we're gone have is jails built everywhere," said Bailey. 

The sheriff's department is reaching out to the community in their efforts to keep teens out of jail. The Rankin County Project Impact Youth Leadership is a push with the Rankin County Chamber of Commerce to involve businesses to help reach at-risk youth and turn them into leaders.
During the six month program teens volunteer, learn team building skills, effective communication, and build relationships with business owners.

RCJJC also brings motivational speakers to talk with the youth.
Rhodes says the teen offenders must earn any reward time to participate. 

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