Sometimes you have to look a little deeper

Published 9:33 pm Friday, April 28, 2017

It sounds bad at first. Warren County Juvenile Detention Center.

This is a place where kids end up after they get in trouble. For 20 years, as of last Friday, the center has served that purpose in Warren County.

You never want to see someone end up there, but the sad truth is that kids get in trouble, and the juvenile detention center is much better than them ending up in jail. Nevertheless, talking about and celebrating the Juvenile Detention Center seems counterintuitive and wrong.

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Then you meet the staff. I had the chance to do that when I was asked to cover the 20-year anniversary.

These people are not there to punish. Yes, the juveniles are detained, but the people who work there, especially James Goodman and Katherine Holden who have worked at the center since day one, are there because they care about those they work with.

Warren County’s center had full-time teachers on staff before it was mandated by law. They had a mural painted on the wall to add color and the figures in the mural wear graduation caps to show the kids their potential.

Goodman was almost brought to tears after being honored saying “I didn’t know I was going to stay here this long. As I went on with life and I realized all the kids that I had touched, I kept telling myself that this is something that I want to do.”

His title is supervisor, but in reality he is a counselor, a mentor, someone that the juveniles he oversees can come to if they need to someone to talk to and much more.

Hopkins started an hour of power where ministers and other religious leaders will come to speak. No one can be forced to attend, but Hopkins said that everyone typically does. It is a time for the kids to open up. Some of those who come in have been in same situations as the kids they come to talk to and listen to. They are being shown a way out and a possible better future from people that have faced the same trials and challenges as them.

Yes it is a punishment, but it is also a time when counselors can try to find the root of the issue that brought them there and help them to work through them. And maybe spending a few weeks in the Warren County Juvenile Detention Center will keep them from spending years in jail down the road.

It sounds bad when you just look at the outside and the building says detention center, but walk inside. Meet the staff that have poured their lives into the youth and helped saved many throughout the years.

As Hopkins said, “A lot of people, when you say detention center view it as a bad thing, and it can be viewed as a bad thing, but what we have been here for the last 20 years is to help build these kids.”

Brandon O’Connor is a staff writer at The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at Readers are invited to submit their opinions for publication.