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Upping the Dosage

Got tipped to a compelling program being offered by the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, the hard-hitting "Dose of Reality" tour, which attempts to deter "at-risk" young people from criminality by offering an "insider's" view on life behind bars.

The tour features blunt, often shocking, presentations from jail inmates, as well as from victims of crime or drunk driving and their families. The ultimate goal of the program is to open the eyes of people to the reality that may await them if they do not change their ways.

Let me say up front that I think that any program designed to help steer young people away from street life should be commended, so props definitely go out to the officers — and inmates — who have worked on the tour over the past 16 years. And goodness knows the city can't have enough efforts aimed at keeping our children out of trouble.

Even so, I'm still left wondering: In a city like ours, can programs like this really make a big difference?

Again, I have no problem with showing kids what awaits crooks in jail and am reminded of that searing, late-70s "Scared Straight!" documentary that tried to give juveniles an unfiltered look at life "on the inside." If taking a child into Wayne County Jail or the county morgue to see what the endgame looks like for violent criminals is enough to keep them off the streets, then more power to these efforts.

But it's 2010, and jail subculture has been woven so tightly into the fabric of contemporary urban pop culture — thanks to TV, music and film — that for many kids it's a norm. (Check the clip below on "sagging pants" for a hint at what I'm talking about.) As a result, too many of our young people no longer harbor a healthy fear of imprisonment. Some, tragically, even expect it, having already seen older brothers, uncles, cousins and fathers get locked down.

And to many of the young hustlers on our city streets, even the risk of death is just an occupational hazard that they grudgingly "charge to the game."

It's not that many of these kids don't know where, say, drug dealing or other criminal activity can lead. They do. But in a state with double-digit unemployment and a city with reeling schools and fading job opportunities, it's the alternatives to crime that some young folks have a tough time viewing realistically.

Thus, while I certainly respect programs that try to steer children away from negative influences, I personally wish there were also more programs that showed these children, in just as vivid detail, what they should strive for. (Not to mention programs designed to combat the structural woes we're all facing.) Reality can cut both ways, of course. So for every visit to jail these troubled kids take, I'd like to see them take two more visits to corporate offices or college campuses.

Efforts like the "Dose of Reality" tour ought to be applauded for urging troubled Detroit children to eschew failure — although it's going to take even more to teach those youths to embrace success.

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  • 2

    I think this is a good program but it does not deal with the core problem which is hope for a future. Give most kids a path to a bright future and most will respond. Cultures can change and I feel there is a window of opportunity for Detroit at this moment to change positively. It will take many programs, some have already started such as the Community Urban farming programs and Tech Town just to name two. We all need to find ways to help.

  • 3

    Tired bullshit excercise..How about some trips to the US Mint...

    • 3.1

      Go to the US Mint and do what? Stare at money, or the printing of money, or the destruction of old worn out bills? That doesn't describe or inform a path to success. It's simple and stupid. Going to a college campus, a career center, or workplace to discuss jobs that are available in growth industries and how to attain success is far more valuable than simply staring at a pile of cash. I'd rather teach a child how to get a job at a bank than have him stare at the piled cash in the vault.

  • 4

    While I commend the intent of this program, it reminds me of the Scared Straight program that was around when I was a student in Detroit Public Schools. Scores of young people took field trips (remember those???) to the County Morgue, the juvenile facilities, and to many of the local jails. A lot of young people were very affected by what they learned and consequently they were able to make more informed decisions.

    Sadly, as Mr. Dawsey has correctly asserted, the young folks today have been over-exposed to issues of drugs, crime, and violence in ways that make it very difficult for a program such as the one discussed here to have a real and meaningful impact. There are very few high school students in Detroit, for example, that DO NOT have a relative, friend or acquaintance that has some relationship with the criminal justice system. If you listen to the music young people listen to or if you watch the televison and movies they enjoy, you will see that they saturate themselves in all things negative; not necessarily knowingly, but even young people looking for positive messages will be hard pressed to find any.

    And might I respectfully add....gthraser...YOUR suggestion is what would really be a BS excercise...What exactly do you think poor young people would learn by visiting the US Mint??? My question is immensely rhetorical since I already know the answer....I am working with them - not judging them everyday !!! Good job Mr. Dawsey....

  • 5

    @ teachtithink,

    Excuse me you are not the only savior and messiah working with students in the city..A visit to the US Mint instead of the usual doom and gloom field trips will be a real life view of some of the results of being a superior student=$$$$$$$$$$

  • 6


    Perhaps you dont understand that poverty informs what people think and dont think about success. I am not clear how the US Mint, in any way, has a correlation to a perceived personal superiorty and I am additionally stunned that you see yourself as a Savior simply because you are doing what ALL adults should be doing with and for young people.

    And speaking of seem to spew a lot of it on this blog....Working with young people FOR REAL can help with may bring some hope to your constant chorus of doom and gloom....Good luck with that !!!

  • 7

    Darrell, that was a very insightful post. Today too many kids probably have more “role models” in OTIS than the DAC.

    I have a couple nephews who are in the first or second leg of heading down the wrong path. When I talked to them about choosing good friends and working hard in school I could see the blank look in their eyes. No connection. After a few more talks I knew they were just humoring me. So I tried to put myself in their place. What would've captured my attention when I was their age?

    The next time we got together I made sure they saw the results of doing things the right way. We took my '67 Mustang out for a cruise, making sure to hit the spots their female friends hang out. We went tubing on behind my ski boat. We watched a movie and played video games in my home theater. We kicked out the jams on my high-end stereo system. We hung out in my workshop (equipped with a car lift, tons of power tools, kegerator, TV and stereo). They were in heaven.

    While I made sure I didn't fall into lecture mode, we talked about how I got the things we enjoyed that weekend. We talked about what it cost to have the cars, the house, the boat, the toys. We talked about what people make with different levels of education. We talked about their dreams and how they could achieve them. We talked about how a person could screw up their life with a few bad moves.

    I never mentioned the most important things, like peace of mind, raising a family in security, not having to worry about the police, the bill collectors, or neighborhood crime. About the satisfaction in knowing you worked hard and did well. How having the ability to dedicate resources to charities and community efforts were more gratifying than the bling. That isn't appreciated until much later.

    Time will tell if it really sunk in. I worry that the environment they're in will be overwhelm any influence I've had.

    Darrell, when it comes to black children growing up in Detroit, I'm afraid as a middle-aged white suburbanite I don't have the relevance to be a believable example to them. Frankly, I think they need successful black men to show them the possibilities. Unfortunately it seems the there's just too many in need and too few to fill the need. Am I unnecessarily pessimistic?

    • I think you were right in every instance with your nephews. A good lecture is still important, IMO. It can lodge ideas in crevices you don't always even know are there. I can't tell you how many of my mother's stern talks came roaring back into my head when I needed them most, even in adulthood. (Nothing wrong with the well-timed smack upside the head either.)

    • That said, you can't just drone on with kids. You do have to show and prove. And hanging with the cool uncle in the man cave or in the nice ride represents an investment of time, not just words. And we all know what that means to kids. Yeah, peace of mind, a secure home and stable family -- those don't matter much to teenagers. And they shouldn't, yet. But the idea is to get them on the right road.
    • No, there are no guarantees that their environment won't still take them under. But all any of us can try to do, really, is give the children in our lives a fighting chance -- or at least a consistent example they can look to and depend on.

    • I think this is what makes any of us relevant to these children. I can't speak for all these kids, of course, but I certainly know black boys in Detroit who would say you were a "believable" example if they felt you were consistent and accessible. And while I agree we need more successful black men as role models, I also think we as Americans need a more practical definition of "success" that we can translate to our children.

    • I don't take issue with your pessimism, given how dire things are. We all need to respect that the challenges our children face are, in many ways, structural issues and go well beyond just matters of character or discipline. But I don't think any of us have the luxury of giving in to that pessimism -- or of discounting character and discipline.

    • Again, good stuff. Thanks for the reply.
  • 8


    So in other words you lack the depth to understand my basic talking point about exposing students to positive examples instead of the tired gloom and doom field trips to city jails and the like...

    Please stay stunned about my posts perhaps once you get out of your self imposed myopic state of shock you can then start to comprehend progressive views..

    BTW your need to fixate over my comments is making me,lol,lol

  • 9


    First of all, this will be the last time I ever respond to any of your misplaced personal insults or your shallow attempts at intellectual acrobatics.

    Secondly, "exposing students to positive examples" is empty phraseology often espoused by folks who lack the ability to understand the complexities of what young people learn and how they learn it.

    Lastly, you, your name, and your beliefs are far from progressive and known to more than a fact, your rants have made you infamous in the minds of a number of people on this blog and elsewhere.

    Good luck with whatever your agenda is....and in terms of YOUR fixation...we can let the readers of this blog decide just how funny you really are...or ARE NOT !!!

  • 10


    So in other words your retreat and surrender is a reflection of your shallow depth and hollow substance or just the basic truth you cannot measure up with me or my comments...

    It does bother me that someone of your shallow demeanor is around students and children...Folks like you have destroyed so many innocent souls...So sad....

    BTW thanks for confirming for me how pervasive my "brand" is...I do take enjoy the range of my scope and how many folks I have impacted and influenced...

  • 11


    Your point is what???...WHo annoited you the arbiter and umpire of discourse in here...Oh shit I forgot your just another incomplete wit who stands on the sidelines offering crumbs of nothingness....

    Here I have a present for you...YAWN..

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