Second Chances to Save Our Community | Jane Lyons | [email protected]



just two miles down the road from my house there's a youth detention center it's called Delaware Youth rehabilitative services however our community knows it better as Ferriss I confess that as I passed this building by I've always had an eerie sort of out worldly feeling however other than that I had never given it much thought I'm sure each of you are sitting here wondering why a young teenage girl like me chose to get involved with those who've gotten in trouble with the law sort of makes you wonder very remote and strange to each of you just as it was to me several years ago I could have never imagined that something as severe as incarceration would happen to someone like me until it did my neighbor was seven years old he lived in a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood he played baseball at Piedmont and he attended a private school he would have never imagined that his life would soon spiral out of control his parents got divorced and he moved into the city of Wilmington with his mother after some time his mom became involved with drugs and as a young teen he too developed a drug addiction as you can imagine this drug addiction led him to being desperate for money and willing to do anything to get it so not surprisingly this led to his arrest and incarceration at Ferris I ask each of you to think about the mistakes you have made in your lives I'm sure most if not all of you have been lucky enough to have been provided with a second chance you have had that support system at home that has helped pull you out of those dark places in which we find ourselves when we make these mistakes where would you be without that second chance where would you be without that support system at home I tend to think of the teenage years as a time where we don't know the consequences of our actions we rarely consider them but when we are given that second chance to redeem ourselves regain our dignity then we do learn and we do better the next time hopefully I think that many of you would be surprised to learn that 70% of our incarcerated youth in Delaware are black teens that are imprisoned for crimes that go unreported in affluent suburbs now don't get me wrong I fully believe that people should be held accountable for their actions but I think that our society tends to become numb to the fact that many of these teens come from dysfunctional families so this statistic of 70% of our incarcerated youth may surprise each of you but it doesn't surprise those teens at Ferris in fact they have reported to the News Journal that they feel as if society is stacked against them they have said that they view jail as just an inevitability in life a step in life like many of you view college for you that they are bound to visit at least once in their lifetime just let that sink in our teens kids in our community think that our world is stacked against them they simply think that our world is waiting for them to make a mistake and being quick to punish them when they do as you're thinking about that I'm going to provide you with two examples of teens in our community their stories really resonate with me the first is Antonio him and his family were immigrants living in the city of Wilmington as a young teen Antonio was searching for any friend he could find he would hang out in front of his homeless shelter in Wilmington and befriend anyone who walked by in short time he became involved in a game pretty at the beginning he thought this was pretty cool he had some friends who would do things together but just as gang activity starts it came in to truancy is orderly conduct and involvement with alcohol and drugs so I'm sure you won't be surprised when I tell you that these activities led to his arrest and incarceration at Ferris I began to after some time when he had completed his rehabilitation and he was ready to be released to our community I asked myself what would happen to him when he returned to the same section of the city with the same and surrounded by the same crimes would he wind up right where he just was back in incarceration it seemed like a hopeless cycle to me and I was simply puzzled I became saddened to learn that this is exactly what happens in many circumstances so then I became aware of a similar situation to Antonio's a boy named Tyler and he was involved in gang activities similar to Antonio however after his incarceration it became aware to me that he did not have a home to go to after every other possibility had been exploited his grandmother stepped up to take him into her care but she was honest with the fact that she did not have a bed nor a couch for him to sleep on and he would have to be comfortable with living on the floor so then I asked myself how would I be asked to complete homework assignments participate in sporting events or partake in any social interactions without a bed to sleep in at night I knew that I would be pretty cranky and probably get into some trouble myself so I learned that his teens have fallen through the cracks in our society they are headed for a life of crime this ad reality is that our rate of reincarnation also known as recidivism has recently reached a high of 75 percent in the city of Wilmington this means that 3 out of every 4 youth who find themselves incarcerated in the beginning of their life wind up back in incarceration at some point during their whole life that's 3 out of every 4 teens this statistic should not be ignored yet our society continues to overlook it I ask you to evaluate the consequences of actions as a society what are we doing to help these teens reenter society what does this incarceration now an indelible mark on their record mean to each of us for as I involve myself in multiple service projects with the residents at Ferris I was saddened to learn that very little was being done this high rate of recidivism outraged over a system that seemed to recycle teens back into these hopeless situations for this exact reason I created youth overcoming obstacles with the help of mr. Jack McDonough deputy director of Delaware youth rehabilitative services I set out to create an organization in Delaware that would help these incarcerated teens who could not help themselves my ultimate goal through this organization is to bridge the gap for these incarcerated teens who want to succeed when they return back to their home communities now through my organization I was able to provide Tyler's family with the necessary monetary needs they needed to move out of the city and into a new school district I was also able to provide a bed for Tyler so that he could participate in those sporting events completing his homework assignments and partake in any social interactions with a good attitude I am here to tell each of you that if you think teens can't make a difference in the adult world we can I have learned that I have a voice and when my observations turn into actions it matters I firmly believe that the state will back us in creating and advancing opportunities for all teens who need and want to make a difference in our community so I ask each of you to join me in creating second chances for the incarcerated teens in our community this is simply by changing your mindset instead of seeing these mistakes and writing these teams off and punishing them for their mistakes I ask you to embrace their mistakes I ask you to help them develop their lives and make our community better so I want each of you to join me on my path to being an agent of change in our community because after all changing society's view on incarcerated youth starts with all of you thank [Applause]

2 thoughts on “Second Chances to Save Our Community | Jane Lyons | [email protected]

  1. It is amazing that such a young woman can make such a difference in the community!

  2. Get it girly – you are going to inspire so many people in the future to chase after their dreams and be amazing human beings!

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