Friday, January 22, 2010

recidivism bites

Last Friday we had a graduation for Jonah, a sixteen year old kid who is the father of two children and has another on the way. At the ceremony, we all bestowed our best wishes upon Jonah, saying positive words of encouragement and reminders about responsibility, hard work, and healthy goals. Jonah thanked everyone, including teachers, staff and other residents, and said he would keep his head up and stay out of trouble. To be honest, I had strong doubts about Jonah's future and his ability to make it out there (and by 'make it' I mean finishing school and getting a legitimate job, as opposed to earning a living as a purveyor of illicit drugs).

This morning I learned that Jonah was arrested for possession of marijuana, which means a few things:

1. he's going back to secure lock-up after only 6 days on the out
2. his community re-entry and education plans are totally derailed
3. I now know why I had such doubts about Jonah

In reading workshop, when I would ask Jonah to describe something in either oral or written format, he used to say to me, "Miss, I know what I am trying to say, but I can't find the words. I don't's's so hard for me." Jonah had also confided (in a very open way) that he had been smoking pot regularly since he was ten years old, and that he didn't know how he was going to make any money in life other than by dealing drugs. I asked him if he thought that plan would work for him in the long term. "What are my other choices?" he replied. "Well, education would be a good start, don't you think?" I offered. "Which would lead to a career path of your choice. It can be done, you know," I told him.

But I always saw a dismissive expression on his face when we had conversations like this one. I never got the impression that Jonah wanted to complete his education and get a job. Maybe he was addicted, to a number of things for a variety of reasons. But I still feel mournful at this latest twist in the tale of Jonah. I'd rather be writing about all the success stories of kids in DYS who actually use their time in custody to turn their lives around. These stories exist and are worthy of wide public broadcast. For now, though, I reflect dolefully on Jonah. Perhaps his latest learning experience will be the catalyst for some sort of positive change.

No comments:

Post a Comment