A peek behind bars reveals jail’s scary side to kids (July 26, 1997)

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A tour of a facility and a talk with an inmate show youth that ‘bad things happen’ in prison.

– by Greg Livadas, Staff Writer –
Democrat and Chronicle.

Nearly a dozen youngsters went to jail yesterday, but only for a two-hour visit.

“If you don’t eat what they give you, you’ve got to starve,” said Desiree Dicker, 11.

The visit was sponsored by the Southwest Challenge as part of the Rochester Challenge Against Violence.

Joy Powell who led the group of Rochester children with Challenge Coordinator Van White, said a couple of children were at risk of spending time in jail.

“The rest of them, we just want to save,” she said.

Media cameras weren’t allowed inside the Monroe County Correctional Facility on East Henrietta Road as the children toured and spoke with an inmate.

But the children regrouped at City Hall and talked about what they had seen.

“Bad things happen to you when you’re in jail,” Desiree said.

Calym Blake, 12, tried to lie down on an inmate’s cot.

“It was hard. It was like a brick. When you lay down, you can hurt your head.” he said.

Others said the inmates had to ask permission to go to the bathroom and were only allowed one hour a day in a gymnasium with about 100 other inmates and two basketball hoops.

For Powell, the trip was an emotional one. She had lived on the other side of the bars there, serving time for possessing drugs. She is now on parole.

“This was the first time I’ve been back on the other side of the fence, and I don’t want to go back,” she said.

She said the jail is more crowded than the last time she was there, and inmates now aren’t allowed to smoke.

Powell said she is leading a new life and has opened a beauty shop. She wants to return to the jail to tell the inmates that prison doesn’t have to be a revolving door if they change their attitudes about life.