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April 15, 1979 - Image 18

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-04-15
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Page 4-Sunday, April 15, 1979-The Michigan Daily
Inmaes at
HE MORNING sun starkly silhouettes the 40-
oot high walls of the world's largest walled
prison, Southern Michigan Prison (SMP) at
Jackson: Outside the sprawling complex, ominous
guard towers loom over the prison yard. Inside,
green-jacketed corrections officials hurry to their
posts, handcuffs and retaining chains dangling from in the process,
their belts, walkie-talkies slung over their morning I wake
shoulders, and the threatening shape of a pistol frightened too."
bulging through their jackets. The Wayne C
A Wayne County van pulls up to the main gate. enter the prison
Four young men, about 15 or 16 years old, are ac- showing no sign
companied by their parents and juvenile authorities breaking ande
as they enter the prison. The well-dressed boys weapon, or purse
glance around nervously at the alien surroundings. floor, shuffling t]
They seem like any other high school students, with ds into their pocks
one striking exception: each has been convicted of a A corrections o
felony, and today, each will be JOLT-ed by the har- is led to the inta
sh realities of prison life. Block, the Recep
JOLT, an acronym for Juvenile Offenders Learn the bars of thee
Truth, is a disarming crime deterrent program run and their parents
by the inmates of Jackson Prison. It began in 1975 in dull thud the doo
the mind of one man, Pat Duffy, then president of begins to sink in
the SMP Jaycees. With a group of other concerned, doors open again
but hard-core convicts, he formed a committee and Dr. John Prel
began outlining on paper the program that today tion Center, mee
exposes young offenders to the horrid realities of experience to th
the living hell called Jackson. run totally by thi
"We don't bullshit the kids, we just tell them the The people involv
brutal facts about the savage murders, the terrible not very nice pe
conditions, the rapes, and life in this hell," ex- the negative as
plained JOLT committeeman Tony Bercheny. Con- going to be a loto
victed of attempted murder, Bercheny is serving an confrontation, an
18-to-40-year sentence. "We don't try to use in- by the inmates.I
timidations or scare tactics to get to the kids. We ticipate?" he ask:
feel the experience is bad enough. If they get scared "Okay, let's st

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The Michigan Daily-Sunday, April fo;


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Jackson State Prison
juveniles straight
Hendricks-tells the parents, who have been led to
another room in the prison to meet with some JOLT
By R on G iffordcommittee members. "The cons treat them like the
little kids they are. They may be tough guys in the
streets, but that streetwise bullshit doesn't stand up
one bit against a hardened con."
I for them. I'm scared every herded into the tank, a room about 10 feet wide and "They think they'll be able to handle it in here,"
so I've got a feeling they'll be 20 feet long. Jutting from the wall, a small, hard Bercheny says. "They're wrong, all wrong. Prison
bench provides the only relief from standing for a is a fight for survival, where you learn to live or die.
group waits to be cleared to new prisoner. In one corner of the caged room sits A few tough kids will end up in here - but as
he boys are unusually quiet, someone's old lady, or at least raped once or twice."
t they have been convicted of "The kids are going to learn that there are bears,
ring, carrying a concealed foxes, and victims in the prison," Bercheny tells the
tching. They look down at the parents. "The bears take whatever they can get,
feet slowly, shoving their han- however they can get it. The foxes outwit people for
what they want, and then there are the punks like
e arrives, and the small group your sons who are the victims, who get taken for
oom - the "bubble" of Seven everything they've got."
and Guidance Center. Slowly --E
ronic door open, and the boys -A T 6'3" AND 200 pounds, "Little" John Dor-
er a small caged room. With a tch, one of the JOLT "actors," plays a very
ses and the reality of prison life I convincing role as a bear. Inside the cell he
vill be a long time before those ambles up to one of the young boys and takes his
t them out. '" hand. On one finger he slips a ring. "You're my
, superintendent of the Recep- sissy now. We're married." The boy backs away at
Sgroup, and explains the JOL T UVENILEthe homosexual innuendo, but there is no place to
sidents, not b the institutionDELINQUENCY go. Over and over the JOLT experience reinforces
s' ents: Thisio na -U that fact. The boys are told that if someone wants
are for the most part lifers, and you for something, they-will usually get you. "A guy
. They are going to emphasize was standing in line and a dude stuck (stabbed) him
s of the prison life. There is in the back three times," Dortch, who is serving two
plicit language in the intensive an open, foul-smelling toilet. There is nothing for natural life sentences, said, "When he fell to the
e boys will be verbally abused the prisoner to do but wait for processing. ground, the guy with the knife realized he had stab-
ou still want your sons to par- A JOLT committee member, James ("My friends bed the wrong person. So he said he was sorry and
e parents. Each approves. call me Jimmy") Hendricks, leads the parents out left."
them through," Prelesnik tells of the bubble into Seven Block. As they leave, one Although the official count is much lower, the in-
rs. mother glances back at her son, who is sitting on the mates claim there are at least two assaults a day in
et of barred doors, the boys are bench in the tank with his head in his hands. A the prison, and countless other robberies and
worried look crosses her face. It will be several crimes. Six men have been murdered here since
hours before she sees him again. January 1. "There's a lot of dead bodies floating in
"There are 510 men in this block," Hendricks, this place," one inmate said.
who is serving a life sentence, tells the group as it From the cell, the young offenders are taken to
moves into the dining area. The long, dimly-lit Room 21, the site of JOLT's intensive confrontation.
building is hot and muggy, and five stories of cages Outsiders are excluded from this meeting, where
rise above the area. "The men are kept here until the boys meet four or five JOLT Members and talk
they are reclassified and moved either to another about the boys' problems. A corrections officer is
prison or another block." present in the room, but that's more for the
Inside the tiny cells the men constantly fight prisoners' protection than for the juveniles. "Some
cockroaches and spiders. Each cell is equipped with of the kids try to spit on the convicts, kick them, or
a broken-down bed; a table or dresser, and a rank, hit them," said Hendricks.
filthy toilet and sink in one corner. Locked in their "We don't try to talk about superficial things. We
cells, the prisoners either lie on their beds or pace try to get at the root of the problem," Bercheny
back and forth like caged animals. Their glazed, said. "There are no movie stars here, no Superflies.
sunken eyes are dulled, staring ahead but seeing That stuff on TV, where a guy goes to jail in the
nothing. show, and is back on the street after a commercial,
Several of the inmates come to life, however, is just bullshit."
when the group passes their cells. The boys' Real life inside the prison, not'the fake Hollywood
mothers are taunted and verbally abused by crude glamor, is discussed. The cons tell they boys they

The "chow area" of Seven Block, the reception and guidance center, is one of the few places other than his cell that an inmate

Ron Gifford is the Daily Labor reporter.

the corrections o
Through anoth

obscenities. "Hey, baby, stop in fer awhile, okay?"
a prisoner jeers at them. The women can move on,
though, and leave the cell block and its
repulsiveness. Elsewhere in the complex, their sons
do not have that privilege.
Were the juvenile delinquents actual prisoners at
Jackson, they would be stripped and removed of
their possessions. "No one takes anything into the
prison but their sentences," the boys are told. One
by one, the men are herded into a quick shower, and
are squirted down with a stinging, odorous disinfec-
A mock session in the "bullpen" gives the boys a
taste of real prison life. All paperwork is done here,
and the youths are fingerprinted, photographed,
and given a cell assignment. They are, for all prac-
tical purposes of the JOLT program, inmates at
Jackson Prison.
Put into a cell for 20-25 minutes, the young offen-
ders begin to experience the horrors of living hell.
Several inmates, members of the JOLT "theatrics"
committee, immediately start verbally abusing
them. The boys are pressured by the inmates to give
them gum, clothing, money, and sex.
"The kids come in thinking they're real tough,"

Photos by
Maureen O'Malley
will lose everything in prison - their families, their
friends, perhaps even their lives. "Everyone will
'forget about you, except for your mom and dad.
Yes, the same ones you tell to kiss your ass today
will be the only ones in the whole world who will
care about you tomorrow."
Prison is nothing but violence, degradation, and
loneliness, the boys find out. "As a man, you have a
responsibility to act like a man. You should respect
your family, not treat them like dirt," an inmate
tells them.
Hendricks and Bercheny speak to the parents,
trying to help them help their sons. "We're not
asking you to approve of what we've done. We're not
asking you to like us. We're only asking that you
help the JOLT program help your children before it
is too late!"
The Department of Corrections requires that

parents must accompany their child because "if a
kid's own parent won't spend three or four hours to
help stop their kid's bullshit, then the youngster has
even bigger problems," Bercheny said.
"Your kids have got something we don't have,"
Dortch tells the parents. "That thing is love. There
is no love in here. There's no compassion or any
feelings, because that calls for tenderness and
emotion. In here, that is perceived as a sign of
weakness, and if they think you're weak, the other
cons will try to get you for everything you've got."
- "You only have one feeling in here: fear. I wake
up every morning wondering if I will be killed
today, or if I will have to kill someone in order to
live," Dortch says matter-of-factly.
"We try to impress on them that Mom and Dad
are not the enemies. The jive-ass bitches who they
think are cool are their real enemies, and in here we
try to give your kids the tools to work with so they
can get out of that situation back on the streets,"
Bercheny stresses.
The parents are asked why they are here. "I want
to help my son," one mother says. "It got to the
point, that with all the constant conflict, I wanted to
take a gun and shoot my own son. I don't want to feel
like that."
The intensive confrontation, ends, and the
juveniles, their parents, and the JOLT committee
members are all united in another room. "There
were no smartasses in the room, no problems," one
of the JOLT Members tells the parents. "I think all
four can be helped."
"We told each of the boys things that he can use to
help him when he leaves-oday," another member
said of the confrontation. "We tried to give him a
front to put up for his 'cool' buddies, so he can resist
them. The whole purpose of this meeting was to
show the boys they can say 'no' to his friends about
The focus of the discussion turns from the inmates
to the boys themselves. Before the intensive con-
frontation, the boys had a smug attitude towards
their parents, ignoring them and maintaining a cer-
tain aloofness. Now they .sit as close as possible to
their parents, addressing them as "ma'am" and
"sir," holding their hands to the point of clutching
their mothers' arms like security blankets.
See JOLT, Page 8

JOLT member Tony Bercheuy (left) and JOLTchairman Bill Lovitt emphasize the
entry into Jackson, which is done through the "bubble" pictured above.

The.sight of handcuffs and restraining chains, like cells, become a standard part of every inmate's life.

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