By Bill Oakey – April 26, 2014
One way to approach affordability is through prevention of costs that would hit taxpayers in the future. Saving Austin’s youth from a life in prison accomplishes exactly that. Not to mention the fact that improving kids’ lives is rewarding in and of itself.
The Council On At-Risk Youth (CARY) is hosting its 8th Annual Distinguished Speaker Dinner on Wednesday May 7th. You should plan to come and listen to a presentation by Piper Kerman, author of the bestselling book, Orange Is The New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison. The event, to be held at the AT&T Conference Center, will begin at 6:00 PM with a reception including music and a silent auction. This will be followed by a dinner and the featured speaker.
In her memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, Piper Kerman recounts the 15 months that she spent in the Danbury Correctional Facility for a crime she had committed ten years prior as a very brief, very careless dalliance in the world of drug trafficking. Compelling, moving, and often hilarious, the stories of the women she met while in prison raise issues of friendship and family, mental illness, the odd cliques and codes of behavior, the role of religion, the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailor, and the almost complete lack of guidance for life after prison.
The memoir was adapted into an original Netflix series of the same name by Jenji Kohan, creator of Showtime’s Weeds, and was recently renewed for a second season. It has been called “the best TV show about prison ever made” by the Washington Post and was lauded by Time’s TV critic James Poniewozik for “the stunningly matter-of-fact way it uses the prison to create one of TV’s most racially and sexually diverse–and as important, complex–dramas [and] contrasts the power and class dynamics inside the prison with those outside the prison.”
This week’s Austin Chronicle features a really good writeup about the CARY benefit by Amy Smith. In it, CARY’s development director, Heidi Gibbons, talks about one of their successful efforts called the PeaceRox Program, targeting middle school students.
“We’re using a proven curriculum called aggression replacement training that involves coaching [the students] on social skills, anger control, empathy, role playing, and lots of counseling,” The students complete the program by working on a community-oriented project. “We try to work with their parents, which is hard because it’s often a single parent who’s working a couple of jobs,” Gibbons said. But the program’s track record speaks for itself: “What we are doing here in Austin will reduce the prison population – keeping kids in school, helping them get through school, have a life, and not make bad choices.”
Let’s spread the word about this and hope that lots of people make the right choice and decide to attend the event on May 7th.