10 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, March 29, 2002
In an age where more states are
giving harsher sentences for
juvenile crime, one juvenile
detention center in Clinton, Mich.
seeks to give young men another
By Jeremy Berkowitz
Daily Staff Reporter
Photos by David Katz
Daily Photo Editor
wo years ago, juveniles accounted for 17 percent of all arrests made in the United
States. ost-Columbine, there is less sympathy than ever for juvenile crime in this
country. In the state of Washington, an b-year-old can be sentenced to life in
prison and in some southern states, minors as young as 15 can face the death penalty.
But B'oysville, a national Catholic-oriented non-profit correctional facility with over a
dozen campuses in Michigan alone, seeks to help court-referred juveniles headed for
disaster by turning them in the right direction. In a recent visit to the Clinton crmpus.
The Michigan Daily was able to observe Boysville's unique approach to solving a rational
problem - a philosophy that proves successful for 5 percent of the minors it touches.
"Watch your thoughts,
for they become words.
Choose your words, for
they become actions.
Understand your actions,
for they become habits.
Study your habits, for
they become uour
"Children today face many
unsettling and complex problems"
For the most part, the Brothers of the Holy
Cross, who run the Clinton campus, have a
sympathetic view for the 143 boys ages 12-
17 currently detained there.
"Kids are coming from a home environment
where they're not getting the support they
need,' Boysville Communications Director
David Jablonski said.
Originally established as a Catholic orphanage
in 1948, Boysville has grown immensely during
the past 54 years into a haven for boys aban-
doned by society. In the late '60s, it started tak-
ing court referred cases of troubled juveniles.
Today, most of these juveniles come from homes
who are in the lower third economic range of the
state. Approximately 50 percent of them are
white, 40 percent black and the other 10 percent
are a mix of other minorities. Many of these kids
come from families with only one parent, or
families in which they are being watched over by
grandparents or other guardians.
"When I use the word family, I use it loose-
ly," Brother Chester Freel, director of the Clin-
ton campus said. "We're also unique in how we
put it together with family work and with our
particular approach as to trying to use values as
the key instrument in what we're teaching."
The Clinton campus is classified as middle
risk, meaning the teenagers sent there have
committed crimes ranging from property
offenses to stealing cars. But, Freel, who has
been working at Boysville since 1970, says the
problems with these crimes do not start with
the minors who commit them.
"It's because of the community and family
environment that they come from;' Freel said.
Freel also acknowledges that the type of juve-
niles coming to Boysville has changed over the
last 10 years. There tends to be an increase in
more youth coming from single parent families
as well as families troubled with substance
abuse. He also said the youth coming are tougher
because of more early intervention programs.
"Just by the fact that they haven't made
it, they're the troubled youth,"
The teenagers sent there are
reluctant to talk about the offenses
they committed. When asked why
he has been at Boysville for almost
two years, 17-year-old Tim mum-
bles words several times until one
can decipher that he once exposed
his genitals to a young girl. Fifteen-
year-old Andrew will only acknowl-
edge that he hurt a lot of people and
destroyed many things. However, he
is proud of his supportive family,
which includes a grandfather, moth-
er, four brothers and four sisters. He
wants to make sure his siblings do
not follow the same path he did. "I
try to keep them on track in school,"
"Help is a hand when
e life of a resident at
Boysville revolves around a
group of 12 or 13 kids in con-
seven staffers character. Develop your
who work with
the group. The character, for it becomes
classes and your destiny.
group therapy - Boysville philosophy
together, spend Central to the rehab
their free time with each other and sleep in the here is giving the kids men is group work,a
same dormitory. If a group member is not con- another chance so they within their group w
centrating on his schoolwork, got a bad call can succeed," Lensky at the top and movin
from home or any other problems, it is the said. dinner time; Brother
responsibility of his other peers in the group to A lot of the minors canned "Bros" bomo
help him out. who enter Boysville are
"Once you get here, those other 12 youth behind where they should to go to the bathroon
become your group members, they become your be in school for their age. the young men; A yo
family while you're here," Freel said. "The Since Boysville has school all year, kids are able
responsibility of helping to orient that new per- to catch up and sometimes go beyond their grade
son falls upon the rest of the group members. level. Beth Connor, a special education teacher
The kids realize the value of their groups, and 13-year Boysville veteran, loves seeing the
but are careful not to become too friendly with kids change.
each other. "A lot of kids make phenomenal gains,"
"We tend not to help each other if we Connor said.
get friendly," Andrew said. "The kids, when they leave us,
A day of school at are put in a good position to
Boysville is much like do good in school," Freel
any other high school. 6:15 to 7:00 - Wake up said.
The kids are educat- After classes, there
ed in a variety of 7:00 to 7:45 - Breakfast is a one and a half
subjects, like 7:45 t 3:Q - School hour group thera-
reading, writ- py session in the
ing, math, sci- 3:00 to 4:30 - Group Therapy afternoon where
ence, history the young men
and vocationa 4:30 to6W Work or discuss their
t r a d e activity 'w past problems
Although th and their hopes
halls are drab 6:00 to 7:00 - Supper for the future.
and the desks in "Most impor-
the classroom 7:00 to 8:30 - Recreational or tantly, it's the
could be replaced, work activity other youth saying
there is much pride to that new person
inside the building 9:00 to 10:15 - Homework coming in 'We're all in
from both students and this together, you don't
teachers. Students talk 10:15 - Sho vr, bedtime have to put up your front,
with delight about what you don't have to be mean,
they're learning in their people are here to help you,"'
ilitation and treatment process for these young
and they take comfort in knowing they have people
ho are there for them during tough times. Starting
ig clockwise: Walking through the cafeteria line at
Chester, director of Boysville, is affectionately
st of the young men; The teenagers accept having
m together; Religion is also important to many of
ung man leans against a classroom door.
Freel says he feels the best lesson kids get out
of the program is that they get to try things
they've never done before.
"The kids take risk doing these things.... It's a
good experience'he said.
There is a strong emphasis on spirituality
across all denominations. Boysville has
helped many young men come to the conclu-
sion that there is a god, more than other
teenagers their age.
"Compared to the typical teenager, they're
probably a whole lot more spiritual and reli-
gious;' Freel said.
Discipline at Boysville is seen as part of the
self-management program. If a youth gets out
of line, he is asked why he took certain actions
and is guided into making right decisions.
Sometimes he might be restrained and put in a
time out room. But mostly discipline is seen as
part of the therapy process.
"Anywhere someone's having difficulty, the
group and the staff will stop what they're doing
and help him out," Freel said.
The one serious infraction of rules at
Boysville is if someone attempts to run away
he will be immediately removed and trans-
ferred to a different facility.
"We believe that the entire
family ... is our client."
n average stay for a minor at Boysville
is between 10 and 12 months. A
minor's release date is based on a col-
laborative effort by the Boysville staff, the
courts and the family to see if all the goals of
the juvenile have been reached.
However, Boysville's involvement does not
stop once they leave the campus. A social
worker makes periodic visits to the minor's
home for about a year after the minor is
released. There are written follow-ups at
months three and 12 after release. The social
worker helps the family and minor adapt to
each other again as well as making sure the
minor does not fall back into his old habits.
As for the kids, they have their own
dreams. Some will go back to school, others
like Andrew and Chad want to find jobs in
their fields, and a few, like Tim, strongly
desire to go to college. They feel it is a new
turning point for their life. For many of
them, Boysville has given them another
chance, a new sense of pride, as well as a
various English and science classes.
Andrew shows off the auto shop room and
talks about his intentions of becoming an auto-
Sixteen-year-old Chad, inspired by a cooking
class, has aspirations of becoming a culinary
chef when he leaves Boysville
"I took the food services class.
It's something I really enjoy
doing," he said.
Many of the kids acknowledge
they are learning more now than
they were in their old schools and
feel they have been given a better
chance to succeed.
"We wouldn't have these
classes in public school. ... It
gives us a sense of pride,"
Bob Lensky, who has been a
building trades teacher for 23
years, finds a lot of joy in
teaching kids and enforcing a
job ethic in them.
"The best thing about being
After group therapy, the kids rotate on recre-
ation or campus upkeep from the late afternoon
to early evening with a break for supper. A lot of
the kids love playing, sports, and they have
formed leagues and teams to compete amongst
themselves for the various seasons. At around 8
p.m., they go back to their living areas where
there is homework and more recreational time
until about 10 p.m. when they go to bed.
With no classes on the weekend, the staffs of
each of the groups try to plan other activities for
kids, including occasional trips off campus for
sports or arts events. An event that has become
very popular in recent years is actually a theater
program run by students from the University of
Michigan. With the help of the students, the
minors learn theater techniques as well as write
and perform their own plays. English Prof.
William Alexander, who teaches the class of stu-
dents that runs the program, says the kids are
most of the brainpower in their efforts
"We focus on their stories, their inventions,"
Alexander said. "They learn to work together to
create something and they get applauded."