MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

December 19, 2010

Program for youth needs new home

A program designed to set juveniles on the straight and narrow recently closed, but officials insist they will find a way to keep the program alive.

Friday Night Detention, a program for juvenile offenders for the last six years, closed this month.

It lost its home, the old National Guard Armory near Davis Field when the National Guard moved to its new facility.

A search for a new home large enough to house the program has been unsuccessful, officials said. Mark Winters, executive director of Muskogee County Council of Youth Services (MCCOYS), said it takes a lot of room for between 30 and 75 juveniles in one room doing calisthenics.

Also, the program requires six or seven cadres as supervisors who are willing to work with juveniles in the program from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Assistant City Attorney Roy Tucker has been involved with municipal juvenile matters for two and a half years.

Smith and Winters said recidivism has been gauged by how many times a graduate of Friday Night Detention is seen in it again or any other juvenile program.

And that’s not often, they said.

Counseling in the program involved learning about their decision-making skills, Winters said.

“Most kids knew what to expect — ask any seventh- or eighth-grader about Friday Night Detention and they know all about it,” Winters said.

Tom Luker, a counselor connected with the program, said often those who went through the program offered to come back as volunteer workers.

Various offenses that landed kids in Friday Night Detention included truancy, public intoxication, disorderly conduct (fighting), disturbing the peace, vandalism or trespassing.

In the history of the program, Tucker said he knew of four parents who complained about Friday Night Detention. All of those involved shaving the heads of the teens who attended the program.

Vince Wike of Muskogee said he did not want his son Rett’s head shaved and was prepared to go to court over it. The father said it is humiliating for most kids.

“It would make some kids want to get in more trouble,” he said.

Wike’s son Rett instead was assigned to a different program.

Muskogee County Sheriff Charles Pearson said if the worst thing that happens to a kid is getting his head shaved while in a program meant to save their future, that’s a small price.

“Friday Night Detention was a wonderful program,” Pearson said.

He promises to help others working with juveniles to try to find a new place to house it and revive it.

Reach Donna Hales at 684-2923 or dhales@muskogeephoenix.com.

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