Dougherty Sheriff Kevin Sproul addresses the Dougherty Rotary Club on Tuesday along with Lt. Terron Hayes from the crime prevention unit at the sheriff’s office regarding the agency’s youth intervention and prevention programs. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
ALBANY — Recent and ongoing efforts by a Dougherty law enforcement agency to impact the area’s youth got another platform on Tuesday.
The youth intervention efforts by the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office, including Sheriff Kevin Sproul himself, was the topic at the Dougherty Rotary Club’s meeting Tuesday.
Following an introduction from Albany Police Department Chief John Proctor, Sproul presented a video on the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes program. By utilizing five campuses throughout the state located in Hahira, Dalton, LaGrange, Swainsboro and Chatsworth, the program offers out-of-home placement for children living in adverse circumstances with the goal of providing a nurturing environment that will ultimately give them an opportunity at establishing a high quality of life.
It is a cause close to Sproul’s heart, having hosted a number of youngsters in his own home for several months at a time since the 1990s with the knowledge that today’s youth faces things such as confused standards, broken homes, relationship issues, racial conflict, disease, violence, drugs and gangs.
“If you know of a child (in a similar set of circumstances) contact me if you live in Dougherty County, or the sheriff in your county (to get them started on the application process),” he said. “I see the impact of these homes everyday.”
There are more than a dozen programs conducted through the crime prevention and intervention unit at the sheriff’s office aimed specifically at youngsters, including Choosing Healthy Activities and Methods Promoting Safety, or C.H.A.M.P.S. — which is character education program meant to help steer them toward a life away from drugs and gangs — Shop with a Sheriff and a Scared Straight intervention program.
The latter of those programs recently came into the national spotlight after being featured on A&E’s “Beyond Scared Straight” on Nov. 21.
The programs include interventions ranging from mild to aggressive in nature, most of which is paid for through a small budget.
(Lt. Terron Hayes with the crime prevention unit) works on a zero budget,” Sproul said. “We have a golf tournament in April, and what is raised from that golf tournament is used (to fund his unit).”
Hayes took the podium and spoke of the impact officials try to have with the agency’s character building programs, such as with the intervention efforts and with C.H.A.M.P.S., and what he has seen happen to the children in them — even through the Shop with a Sheriff experience the department does at Kmart during the holiday season.
“Some don’t have time to shop for themselves, and they don’t shop for themselves,” Hayes said of the Shop with a Sheriff participants. “They shop for their grandmothers, their mothers and their brothers and sisters.”
Some of the interventions have included the activity portrayed on A&E last month, during which a group of boys interacted with actual inmates at the Dougherty County Jail to give them a taste of what life is like behind bars.
In the process, the lives of the children are not the only ones being touched.
“We not only intervene with them, but we intervene with the parents,” Hayes said. ” … We intervene with the entire family structure so they can work together.”
Interest in the agency’s programs has drawn attention from areas well outside Dougherty County, and even outside of Georgia. Just prior to the club’s meeting on Tuesday, an intervention was conducted with a family in Atkinson County.
The day before, there were interventions done with families in Dougherty and Terrell counties. Hayes said he noticed something unique in those particular cases in that there was paternal involvement.
“The fathers showed up,” he said. “That’s what I push and promote — male involvement. A male effort is what it will take to bring these young men back into the fold.”
Hayes said Tuesday there were plans in the works to bring in a “Boys To Men” conference open to all fathers and sons in the community, which may possibly be followed by a retreat. In the meantime, notices regarding the annual golf tournament set for April are expected to go out after the first of the year.