GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Keeping teens out of situations that could land them behind bars is a growing struggle, according to the warden at the Harrison County jail.
On Thursday, 70 teenagers went to jail with the goal of never coming back.
“The time that you spend here, you can never get that time back at all," said one inmate. "I’ve missed Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter. I’ve missed every holiday you can think about sitting in here. For what?”
Twice a year, the Harrison County Alternative School brings students to the Harrison County jail to give them a heavy dose of reality.
“See what it looks like, what it smells like, where they don’t want to go, and it’s just the reality of the life here and the choices that they make,” said Harrison County Alternative School Principal Regina Watts Lewis.
“We’re trying to reach these kids by letting them know that law enforcement does care about them. We care about our communities, and we want to be a part of the positive overall community aspect that they can come to us when they have a problem,” said Maj. Evan Hubbard, the warden at Harrison County jail.
Police say the combination of drugs and guns led to the death of Madison Harris this week. It is a combination that is impacting too many teenage lives today.
“It’s becoming a high probability that when a child commits a crime that there’s going to be a gun involved and it seems like there’s always drugs involved. That’s the common denominator,” Hubbard said.
“I do see that and I think it has a lot to do with a lack of coping skills and understanding that violence is not the answer,” Watts Lewis said.
Programs like the one that brought these children to jail with the ability to leave is just a small part of teaching teens that their lives will be better without drugs and violence.
“Conflict management, conflict resolution, just being able to talk things out and mental health,” Watts Lewis said. “Just positive behavior support and just things that we can do to help these students understand that the rules apply to you.”