By Paige Nash
What do you do when there is a shortage of places for the court system to place a juvenile delinquent? If a child under the age of 17 committed a crime and was sent in front of a judge in Webster Parish, there is currently nowhere for them to go to await adjudication.
When a juvenile is arrested by the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Webster Parish Police Jury is responsible for payment of that bed. When a municipality such as the City of Minden or City of Springhill arrests an underage person, they are responsible for that payment.
Webster Parish only has a couple of beds available at Ware Youth Center located in Coushatta currently, the only juvenile detention facility to accommodate children in the vicinity of the parish. Those beds are currently occupied and the price of them is about to skyrocket. The detention center recently lost its insurance after three inmates escaped with the assistance of a security guard in May.
A parish or municipality pays under $200 for a bed and will be looking at three times that amount soon.
City Judge Sherb Sentell, who deals primarily with Juvenile crime, noticed a critical need. He contacted Ron Anderson, public speaker and director of multiple programs targeting the youth in Webster Parish.
The judge recognized the need to redirect the lives of troubled youth who have gotten off track and landed themselves inside a courtroom facing a judge – usually him.
Sentell told Anderson the things he wanted to accomplish and in 2016, Anderson began the CC Ready Program (City, Court, Resiliency, Elevation, Ambition and Direction for Youth.) It targets these individuals who have lost their life’s focus due to lack of concrete goals, healthy self-concepts and positive role models.
Kaden Griffith was arrested in 2019 as a juvenile. He remembers his exact feelings about the situation he found himself in, as well as his reaction to it all.
“After everything went down that night, I was taken into custody. I had no emotions at all. I never felt sorry, never felt guilty. I don’t know, I just felt empty. It wasn’t until I saw the look on my grandmother’s face, that changed it all,” Griffith said.
Luckily, he had the opportunity to turn his life around and graduated from the CC Ready Program in 2021.
“In a way, Mr.Ron’s class really was an eye opener,” Griffith said. “It showed me that someone else has also come from a rough childhood like myself, but instead of blaming the world and everyone in it, he showed me how to overcome those struggles and truly turn nothing into something. It was a hard pill for me to swallow, but it was inspiring. Truly it was and it led me on a path to become the best version of myself.”
This Optimal Potential “Life Skills” class is made up of four sessions with each session ranging from 2 – 2.5 hours. These classes focus on redirecting the lives of first- and second-time offenders by having them engage in topics such as goal setting, group dynamics, workplace readiness, job search skills and conflict resolution. All court ordered participants must attend the four sessions to complete the program.
“We have had young people from 10 years old through 17 years old in the program. Since the program began in 2016, we have had 162 youth report to the class and 136 successfully complete it,” said Anderson.
With an 84 percent graduation rate, he has provided many youths with the ability to accept personal responsibility, have appreciation of consequences, discover their strengths and potential and, by doing so, increased the number of contributing adults within the local community.
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