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KEVIN SPROUL: It's all about the youth

SHERIFF'S COLUMN: The showcasing of the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office youth intervention program has attracted nationwide attention

Kevin Sproul

Kevin Sproul

Many of you may have had the opportunity to watch the episode of “Beyond Scared Straight” which aired on Nov. 21 on the A&E network. I am so proud to have had the chance to showcase one of the many programs that the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office conducts to help families, and especially the youth of our community. I am also very proud of the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office that work every day to make our community better. These are men and women who do not make a lot of money for what they do, but they do it because it is their passion. Most of my employees will never be on television or in a newspaper, but they are doing everything they can to make us as safe as possible.

I have worked with the youth of this community since the torch was passed to me in 1995 by “Deputy Dawg,” Frank Sumner. When I was elected sheriff, I brought Lt. Terron Hayes on board to continue working in the schools with the kids. As he brought his insights and motivation and expanded our youth program, I continued to work with kids as much as I could. At the same time, efforts to intervene with troubled kids were underway at the jail. Capt. Rocky Mendoza, Lt. Tony Brown and many others were using the resources at the jail to bring at-risk kids face-to-face with the potential consequences of their decisions. It seemed inevitable that we would eventually combine all of these efforts to create the program that was featured on “Beyond Scared Straight.”

When the production crew was here to film the episode, they talked about the different programs they had seen in jails and prisons around the country. They told us that our program was among the best they had seen. It wasn’t until weeks later when they realized the secret to our program’s success. When they came back to follow-up with the kids, they found that we had stayed in contact with them. Becoming a part of their lives as mentor, role-model and friend is the linchpin that makes the whole thing work.

The exposure that our program has received has been phenomenal and sometimes overwhelming. The results of that exposure have been truly amazing. We have had parents from around the Southeastern United States contact us and want to fly their children to Albany to put them through our program. We have been contacted by other agencies as far away as Seattle to inquire about starting their own programs. The need is great and we are motivated to do our best to help.

While this type of intervention program is what received the most publicity, it is not the only program that the Sheriff’s Office conducts to help the youth of our community. This month, we will be conducting our annual “Shop with a Sheriff” program; which provides disadvantaged children an opportunity to shop with a deputy and buy some items for Christmas. Lt. Hayes conducts many one-on-one interventions with troubled youth and their families. Also, many groups of kids are given tours of the jail. Several deputies teach character education classes in the local schools and we conduct a summer camp for kids each summer. I believe in investing in our youth, because it is the only investment that pays dividends that will live on.

I should mention that the money we use to buy Christmas gifts and school supplies for these kids, occasionally take them to lunch and do all of the other things we do for them, is donated. Contributions are welcome and appreciated. If you would like to help, or if you need our help, please call (229) 431-3259. I also want to thank the many supporters that have assisted us during 2013.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office!

Sheriff Kevin Sproul is a longtime resident of Dougherty County. He is a graduate of Albany High School, Darton College and LaGrange College of Albany. Sproul has been employed with the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office since 1982 and can be reached at (229) 430-6508.