Operation Kick-it educates kids
48 years ago Carolyn Murray Comments Off on Operation Kick-it educates kids
Cecily left the party knowing she had too much to drink, but she didn’t want to call her parents so late at night. As she headed down the dark stretch of Interstate 35, she thought she saw flashing red and blue lights.The next thing she new, the body of an Austin police officer came crashing through the windshield.Cecily is one of 17 inmates between the ages of 19 and 29 currently participating in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Operation Kick-It, a community education program designed to inform kids of the consequences of using drugs and alcohol.”If we can keep just one person in each group we speak to from going to prison, then we’ve done our job,” said Brian Williams, assistant administrator for the program.”We did 916 presentations last year, and if we met our goal, that means we prevented the building of one new prison,” Williams said. “That saves the state about $13 million of what it would cost to incarcerate those kids if they ended up here.”Operation Kick-It consists of four teams of male and female inmates that travel around Texas telling the public the story of how their involvement with drugs or alcohol led to a prison sentence.Williams said he feels the program has been a success. On one evaluation of the program, a middle school student said seeing the program made him want to stop using crack. Another said it made him not want to use drugs and alcohol anymore.Williams said he also feels the program has had a positive effect on the inmates who participate. A recent analysis showed that between 1995 and 2001, participants in the program have a two-year relapse rate of 14 percent. TDCJ has an overall rate of about 23.1percent, the second lowest in the country. Williams said he credits these low rates to the Windham School District and other education opportunities given to inmates. “Our program forces them to reflect on their lives and face what they have done,” Williams said, “That’s something that most people in TDCJ never do. This also helps the offenders build their confidence and self-esteem, and it increases their communication skills.” Program participants go through a rigorous selection process, which includes a review of their background and discipline since entering the prison system. After being accepted, the inmates are taught public speaking skills so they are more successful in getting their point across.The inmates tell audiences about their background, how they ended up in prison and what their experiences have been like. “One of our guys played football in high school and had several scouts looking at him. He got drunk one night and had a wreck, killing two and injuring three people,” Williams said.Administrators also provide general information on TDCJ, and other information that might be helpful. “For instance, most people don’t realize that in the state of Texas, a person can be certified as an adult and be sentenced to adult prison at the age of 14,” Williams said.For more information or to schedule a program for your organization, call (936) 437-6538 for male offenders or (254) 865-8901 for female offenders.