LCC & YLCC: Law & Justice Day 2012
May 7, 2012
By Derek Jensen
It was a chilling contrast. I was walking with a group of high school students who are some of the best and brightest teenagers in Calhoun County when we passed a large window. Among the curious faces peering out from the other side of the glass stood a former classmate of these high school students. They were on a tour of the Calhoun County Jail. He was an inmate.
The young man and his former classmates exchanged sheepish waves as we moved past the jail cells en route to the kitchen. Our tour continued but this brief and slightly awkward exchange replayed in my mind throughout the day.
The group I was with was touring the jail as part of “Law and Justice” day for both the Leadership Calhoun County (LCC) and Youth LCC programs. The students in YLCC were all juniors from various high schools in our county. They’re an impressive collection of high-achieving, motivated kids with great potential and bright futures ahead of them. As we spoke during the day I learned about their extracurricular activities, college plans and future ambitions. I also pondered what their incarcerated classmate was planning for his future as he spent his days and nights in a jail cell.
It’s overstated, but it’s still true that life is made up of a series of choices and on this day we saw several extremes of both positive and negative choices. We met many dedicated men and women who work in the jail, at the District Attorney’s Office, inside the courtroom and on the streets. They’re doing their best to deter crimes, prosecute those who break the law, help the helpless, and advocate for those who are often overlooked in our society. None of their jobs are simple or easy, but each of them has made a choice to take on these challenging responsibilities each day because they believe what they do helps our community. Their decisions to serve don’t mean the problems they’re trying to address—such as abuse, drug use, neglect or dishonesty—will go away. It does mean that we have a handful of people who are willing to lead the way in tackling difficult problems. It means the rest of us can also make the choice to stand up and help where we can. We may not carry a gun and badge or be the District Attorney, but we can all choose to take actions everyday that will make our community a better place. We can choose to spend time mentoring youth. We can choose to better understand and assist those with disabilities. And, we can choose to encourage and support our friends and neighbors.
Even if we don’t solve all our communities’ problems, maybe we’ll at least have a few less of them to worry about. And if that prevents one more teenager from having to wave to his classmates from behind bars, then we’re already making progress.