Juvenile detainees pitch in to raise awareness

Published 11:30 am Friday, October 10, 2014

A juvenile detainee at the Warren Juvenile Detention Center paints a wooden ribbon cutout purple to help raise awareness about domestic violence during the month of October.

A juvenile detainee at the Warren Juvenile Detention Center paints a wooden ribbon cutout purple to help raise awareness about domestic violence during the month of October.


Midmorning Thursday, the group of teens seemed uneasy as they watched one of their compatriots led away in handcuffs from the classroom inside the Warren County Youth Detention Center en route to a Youth Court hearing.

Within half an hour, they were calm, collected, and working in unison to raise awareness for a crime that many of them had undoubtedly witnessed in their short lives.

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As part of a community service project, the dozen or so teens — all dressed in county-issued dark gray jump suits — were diligently at work hand painting ribbon-shaped signs for the annual October campaign of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“We get kids from broken homes. The best thing we can do is try to mold them while they’re here,” said Kathy Holden, administrator of the detention center.

Those broken homes are often filled with violent confrontations between adults, Holden said.

“We don’t want domestic violence to become a pattern. We want to stop it right now,” she said.

Vicksburg Police Department community resource officer Angela Turner had students at Hinds Community College construct the signs from sheets of plywood. She and Susie Calbert, a victim’s assistance coordinator for the District Attorney’s Office, brought the raw wood cutouts to the detention center Friday and helped the detainees plan their purple and white painting project.

“You could see the change in their attitudes,” Holden said of the teens that painted the signs that will be on display around Vicksburg and in Rolling Fork.

The teens also talked with Angela Davis of Haven House Family Shelter, who began a group discussion in the rec yard by asking them how much they knew about domestic violence.

Some of the teens shook their heads as if to indicate they weren’t familiar with the subject or didn’t want to be. One girl gazed into the distance, never looking at Holden, as if she was already far too acquainted with domestic violence. Finally, one young man spoke up.

“I just know a little bit about it, that you can go to jail for it,” he said.

The Vicksburg Post does not identify juvenile detainees, and under state law, juvenile court records are sealed.

Domestic violence is about control, Davis told the teens. For teens, domestic violence typically begins when one partner begins wanting to control what the other is doing she said.

“If they’re texting you or calling you all the time and wanting to know who you’re with and what you’re doing, that’s where it starts,” she said.

Then the quest for control escalates to physical violence.

“No matter who’s at fault, it’s never OK to hit your partner,” Davis said. “When you get angry and have a disagreement, you have to talk it out.”

Davis particularly addressed the teen boys in the group, saying they needed to be “stand up guys, not stand-by guys” if they see a friend or loved one being physically or verbally abused.

“It’s easy said and it’s easy done. All you have to do is open your mouth and say something. Just direct the attention away and change the subject,” she said.