By Deanna Fené
First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- It's a program to keep First Coast kids on the straight and narrow by showing them what life is like behind bars. It also gives them a look at how the criminal justice system works; and it's not an easy lesson for the students or the teachers.
Teenagers and their parents are learning about the Florida Prison System during Juvenile Justice Tours provided by the State Attorney's Office.
The teens are finding out what happens to a young person in Duval County when they get in trouble with the law.
Chief Assistant State Attorney Jay Plotkin says, "We've been doing this for 14 years. We want to make it clear to the children out there, there are consequences for criminal behavoir."
Cory Miller is a 17-year old inmate. Last year, he was charged as an adult for two armed robberies and sentenced to six years. Today instead of just serving time, he's taking the time to tell teens how to stay out of trouble. Miller says, "Trying to meet them and help them see that the streets and all the crime ain't worth it. It's going to amount to being here."
Ironically, Miller was in this same classroom four years ago, listening to an inmate tell him how to stay out of jail. He didn't listen. Plotkin says, "Unfortunately he made some wrong choices and ended up exactly where that inmate was, he saw, as a youngster."
Plotkin says most studies show teens who come through a program like this will not get in trouble with the law and will understand if they make the wrong choices they will end up in jail.
It was a point well taken by 13-year old Leanver Stephens. "I learned that if I make the smallest mistake that I'd probably be here for a long time. It would mess up my life and I wouldn't be able to go to college."
During the school year, the juvenile jail tour is given to troubled teens to discourage them from getting in trouble; but, during the summer it is open to everyone.