Former ECCC (East Cobb County Council) PTA President, Margie Hatfield, in 1980 had a vision to educate Cobb County youths about the real-life consequences of making poor choices. She recognized that students starting in fifth grade through twelfth grade were vulnerable to becoming involved in criminal activities and needed guidance and education about how what seems like a minor crime can lead to grave consequences. Cobb County Sheriff’s Office partners each year with ECCC PTA to provide the Consequences of Crime program.
The Sheriff’s Office recognizes the inherent differences of students in this wide grade span and presents an age/grade appropriate program. While the educational focus has remained a constant over the program’s history, the content and style of the program is often evaluated to maintain relevancy while at the same time capturing the attention of students.
The Consequences of Crime program is loosely divided into 3 phases and lasts approximately 2 hours. The first phase consists of a brief overall view of the Cobb County jail and the criminal justice system as a whole. Sheriff’s Office representatives explain and discuss the steps an arrested individual faces beginning with the initial jail book-in, the movement of a case through the court system, and the subsequent outcome be it probation or imprisonment. Students learn the technical meaning of terms such as bond, pre-trial, probation and conviction. The second phase provides an eye-opening view of daily jail life. Students no longer tour the current jail housing area, but have a chance to see a jail facility dating back to the 1940’s. This facility has not housed inmates in recent years, but shares the realistic conditions of jail confinement. Much of this phase is presented in a boot camp style format which serves to shock students and hold their attention. The third phase facilitates a dialogue between students and carefully selected male and female inmate workers. Sheriff’s Office representatives are always present during this time. This unscripted question and answer session encourages student participation and allows each inmate to relate their personal story and detail factors which led to their incarceration. The interaction with inmates reinforces the educational message Sheriff’s Office representatives present in “Consequences of Crime”.
Research indicates drugs and/or alcohol is the leading factor in the incarceration of 2 out of 3 individuals. Further, nearly half of all individuals incarcerated do not have a high school diploma. These national statistics are generally consistent with the Cobb County jail population as well. Therefore, Sheriff’s Office representatives reiterate the importance of staying in school, choosing friends wisely and maintaining a life free from the influence of alcohol or drugs throughout the 2-hour program.
This powerful program has left lasting impressions on both the students and adults who have attended. They are expected to share their lessons with the rest of their classmates through innovative means such as group discussions, writing an article for their newspaper, or sharing through a documentary. The underlying message to students throughout the program is to focus on making good choices and decisions and how a single bad choice or series of bad choices can potentially affect the rest of one’s life.
This article was written by Dayna Teichman, Co-Chair of Youth Services for East Cobb County Council of PTAs, and originally appeared in the November issue of EAST COBBER, on page 8. Click here to view the digital edition.