By Ricardo Ferrell
March 1, 2019
In December 2008, after continuous efforts to get the Youth Deterrent Program up and running, officials at the Michigan Department of Corrections would finally give a group of prisoners approval and the green light to move forward with their initiative to deter at-risk youth from going down the path of destruction, death or prison.
The YDP proposal went to the governor’s office in early 2007 for consideration. Former Governor Jennifer Granholm sought the expert opinion and evaluation of Dr. Carl Taylor, a Criminologist and Professor of Sociology at Michigan State University, who visited the Ryan Correctional Facility in Detroit to get a first-hand look at the proposed Youth Deterrent Program and its facilitators.
Immediately after seeing what the YDP Committee was proposing he (Prof. Taylor) forwarded his conclusions and report to Gov. Granholm which included rave reviews and a recommendation to move forward with the program. Gov. Granholm soon after gave her approval and forwarded the report to MDOC director Patricia Caruso.
In the meantime all 12 prisoner facilitators were receiving specialized training from Bishop Mbiyu Chui, the Pastor at the Shrine of the Black Madonna. They were learning effective communication and active listening skills, including a year-long extensive training in Reality Therapy and Choice Theory. The Detroit Free Press ran a story covering the program finally being approved by the department.
The excitement and enthusiasm shared among the Youth Deterrent Program Committee, especially, that of Darryl Woods Sr., who actually initiated the original proposal to get the program started, was evident by how hard we all continued working to see the program become a success. Learning that the program would soon be starting was like a dream come true because we all knew our efforts had finally paid off and we would soon be working to save the lives of youth and young adults who struggle to find their way out of a maze inclusive of dysfunction, disadvantage and disenfranchisement, which often leads to bad choices, poor decision-making and a path toward criminality.
The first group consisted of teens ages 14-18 from Detroit, Saginaw and Port Huron. Most, if not all, already had experienced brushes with the juvenile justice system, in that, they were either facing charges ranging from theft, selling drugs, carrying guns, or attempted murder; some had been adjudicated and were on probation.
Since its inception, the Youth Deterrent Program has taken in at-risk youth from as far away as the State of Ohio, although there was a pause in allowing teens to come to the Detroit facility due to the misinterpretation of a current law in Ohio. The office of Gov. John Kasich got involved as did other Ohio officials.
Former Detroit Free Press columnist Jeff Gerritt, who had covered the Youth Deterrent Program from the beginning wrote a piece in the Toledo Blade Newspaper where he currently writes. He gave credence to the program’s legitimacy and clarified the misconstrued notion that the Ohio teens were being exposed within the Ryan facility. That wasn’t accurate because NO YOUTH has ever been allowed inside the actual facility where adult prisoners are housed, they are ONLY are allowed in the visiting room.
Over the past ten years the Youth Deterrent Program has helped hundreds, if not well over a thousand troubled at-risk teens avoid the pitfalls associated with indulging in criminal thinking and/or activities. We took on the motto of No Youth Left Behind and vigorously worked on saving the lives of so-called at-risk youth by providing them with viable alternatives rather than the indulgence in criminality.
The Youth Deterrent Program has had the backing and support of a plethora of individuals, such as, Gov. Granholm; Gov. Snyder; Gov. Kasich; MDOC directors Caruso, Heyns and Washington; Former Mayors of Detroit and City Officials; Chief Judge Faye Harrison; Judge Frank Szymanski; a Michigan Supreme Court Justice; numerous Church Leaders; Bishop Mbiyu Chui; Warden Raymond Booker; Warden Anthony Stewart; YDP Facilitator Jeffrey Allison; the Detroit Free Press; Saginaw News; Toledo Blade; Rochelle Riley; Felicia Tyson; Alan Sedghi; John Wisely; and a host of others.
The men who have participated month after month and year after year over the last decade in this remarkable life changing program for today’s youth need to continuously be recognized and commended for their efforts in making a difference in the lives of our kids. The Youth Deterrent Committee vows to keep being our brother’s keeper by deterring teens from destructive paths and lifestyles.