After Jose Gonzalez, 14, got into several fightrs in school, Officials at Wareham Middle School In Plymouth County, Ma., told his mother, Lisa Ruiz: No school until he sees jail. Last Thursday, the Boston Globe reports, a sheriff’s van picked up Gonzalez and four other teens at school and shuttled them to the Plymouth County Correctional Facility. There, in dank, green, cinderblock hallways, the teens were “booked,” had their wallets and watches confiscated, were dressed in marigold jumpsuits, and became the first group to take part in a county experiment aimed at saving teens from trouble.
The Juvenile Diversion Program attempts to show teens where delinquency might lead them, said Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph F. McDonough. The program is one of several begun by Massachusetts county sheriffs to address teen truancy, high dropout rates, and juvenile crime. “It gives these students a chance to reflect on where their lives are heading,” McDonough said.
Officials say the program differs from Scared Straight, which introduces teenagers to prisoners serving lengthy or life sentences. “We don’t get into their faces and yell at them or talk to them about prison rape,” said Mike Seele, the sheriff’s spokesman. The teens were marched — single file, no talking — to a lesson in anger management. Anger is normal, said Joseph Holleran, a prison instructor. “What we have to figure out is what makes us angry.”
Later in the day, Captain Anthony Muniz led the youths to where he works: a silent, freshly painted room with two floors of cells. Men’s faces were peering out. Muniz motioned them into cell FS101. Four men stared down from the bunks. The teens’ eyes darted from unfriendly face to unfriendly face. Later, after a tour of the showers, the solitary block, the room where the corrections officers stash clubs and helmets and other SWAT equipment, Gonzalez said, “I never want to go there. “I’m definitely not going to do that stuff no more.”