Story by Jana Eschbach / CBS 12 NEWS
FORT PIERCE, Fla. – Police say the gun violence is at a crisis level in Fort Pierce tonight how retired military and police are fighting to reform the violent teens, 8 young men at a time. 133 shootings last year. More than 60 now this year in Fort Pierce.
How do we stop it? A new program says working with the most violent teens to reform the offenders. These academy leaders say they truly think jail is not the answer, but only hardens the teens and makes the teens worse.
“We are having some serious problems in Fort Pierce with a lot of gang violence and shootings,” Fort Pierce City Commissioner Reggie Sessions said, “but it’s not hopeless because there’s some good in every child. It’s just when we place them in an environment that is not conducive to the positive, we get the end result. And that’s what we’re seeing in the streets of Fort Pierce right now.”
Sessions is helping lead the pilot program for the Second Chance Cadet Academy, a 8-hour daily, 4-week program that stresses physical activity, respect, manners and career skills. The program takes teens that many won’t chance working with, and gives the young men a second chance.
“I am a firm believer. There’s no bad child. But it’s just a challenge for us to intervene now. If there’s ever a place that needs intervention, it’s certainly this one,” Sessions said, “if we don’t concentrate on the bad kids, that cancer is going to spread and it’s going to be widespread.”
The group of 8 young men meet every morning on Avenue D early, and train until dinner.
“They want some direction. And that’s what this program is all about, trying to give them that,” Sessions said, who in only 2 weeks has seen some offenders turn from gang members, into wanting to join sports at school. So many of the teens are the same ones involved in the multiple weekly shooting in Fort Pierce.
“It’s not the adults. it’s the children. 14,15,16,17 years old walking around with weapons.”
Who are these teens? Marquis Francis is the cadet captain.
“I grew up around fighting, gun play, burglaries, everything, I didn’t got a job before. I was shot at. Everything,” Marquis said, “when he put me in this, at first I didn’t want to come to this academy. I did not want to come at all. Next morning–no Dad I am not going.”
“I like how they teach us about respect. To become men in life.” What’s their other option? “You die or I will be back on the streets.”
We talked with Christian Davis, 14, with an ankle monitor, mandated by a judge to attend the academy after admitting to being in a gang.
Is that even possible for Christian to stay straight if he goes home? Are they going to make him be in a gang again?
“I can’t get out. I’m there for life.” Christian said, “the best I can do is avoid it, stay away from the bad stuff and people. Stay inside at home.”
And what happens to Christian if he gets in trouble again? “I go back to jail,” Christian said, who has been locked up 6 times this year.
Now in the academy, he’s talking about going to school, and planning a future. “It helps me see life in a better way,” Christian said.
Christian and the young men know..they must complete the 4-week rigorous program..and then be adopted by a mentor until they are adults. If they don’t succeed here, they tell CBS 12, they will be dead or in jail.
The problem for so many of these young men–they are beaten into gangs at age 12, and then members for life.
They face retaliation against their families if they break free.
The Second Chance Cadet Academy is in its pilot program now, funded by the Fort Pierce Police Athletic League, and will trace these young men’s progress through their adoptive mentors to see if this is more effective than jail time. Jail, so far, has not worked for Christian.
Violent teen offenders get second chance at Ft. Pierce cadet academy
Article source: http://www.cbs12.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_17808.shtml