Youth incarcerated in Marion County Jail volunteer for enrichment program

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INDIANAPOLIS — A new enrichment program for teens incarcerated in the Marion County Jail launched Friday, with a goal of equipping the participants with empowering life skills. Power and Promise is a 6-week program that has already helped 55 young people across Marion County, in schools, apartment complexes, and homeless shelters.

Despite the circumstances that landed the teens in the Marion County Jail, a group of 17-year-olds have chosen to invest in their future.

“The goal in any correctional environment is just that: corrections,” Captain Mitch Gore said. “Right? But especially for youthful offenders, the goal is not punishment, and especially in a jail setting where people haven’t been convicted, it’s not punishment.”

Gore said the program combines elements like art therapy and cognitive behavior therapy.

“Trying to process some of that trauma in their life,” Gore said.

Each week, Facilitator Brandon Randall meets with the teens virtually and leads lessons in healing, decision making, conflict resolution and community engagement.

“They all were telling me their aspirations, what they’re good at, their dreams,” Randall said. “For me that’s so important because that means they haven’t lost hope.”

Thanks to local grant funding, each participant in any of the Power and Promise cohorts receive $150 for showing up and participating. For those in the jail, that money goes toward commissary.

“This financial incentive has left us in a position where we filled every spot for the program,” Gore said.

Randall believes in this program, which VOICES created, because he knows it can change students’ mindsets and lifelong trajectories.

“They have done their time, so why would we keep continuing to hold that over their head,” Randall said. “But then get mad when we don’t see growth, or they go back to the streets and they do other things to get in trouble?”

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