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Inmates warn Ferris students about making bad choices

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DIANA BUCKLEY
Ellis County Press
FERRIS - Personal testimonies from real inmates are the cornerstone of an educational program, which seeks to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and juvenile crime.

'Privacy goes away when you get sent to prison,' said Tom Walter of the REACH Council during a presentation at Ferris High School last week.

A slide flashed up on the screen: a long row of toilets.

'This isn't up there to be funny,' Walter said. 'This is real.'

Another slide revealed rows and rows of showerheads in a large, gymnasium-like room.

'The inmates have no control over the water temperature, or how long the water stays on,' Walter said.

Inmates go through an extensive screening process to be included in the program. Once selected, they receive training in communication skills, speech, body language, self-confidence and self-esteem.

'We are looking for inmates who are not security risks, who are potential public speakers and who are sincere,' said Program Administrator George Lively.

'We don't expect a person to be a polished speaker, we can train them to speak. We want inmates who care that other young people don't have to come to prison because of the same mistakes they have made.'

According to a press release, inmates who participate in the program are not eligible for any special consideration when it comes to parole or other aspects of their sentence, but they do seem to benefit from their participation.

'Of panelists that have been in the program, less than 20 percent have returned to the Institutional Division,' Lively stated.

The group made presentations last week at Ennis Middle School, Ennis High School, Maypearl High School, Midlothian Middle School, Midlothian High School, Venus High School, Ellis County Juvenile Probation, Waxahachie Alternative Education Program, Red Oak Alternative Education Program, Red Oak High School, Ferris Junior High and Ferris High School.

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