Fulton County’s Youth Intervention Program Discourages Youth from A Life of Crime

Written by  //  March 6, 2013  //  Community  // 


By Kim Sheffield
Jul 2012

Esteem Magazine sat down with Deputy Joseph Johnson of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia to discuss the Youth Intervention Program (Y.I.P.) and its goal to discourage youth from a life of crime through education.

Esteem Magazine: What is the goal of the program?

Fulton County Deputy Joseph Johnson: The goal of the program is to deter the youth from going down the wrong path in life and prevent them from becoming a statistic in the Criminal Justice System. Today a large number of our most violent crimes are committed by youth between ages 17 – 24 years of age. It is our desire to stop this trend through education.

Esteem Magazine:  How long has the program existed?

Fulton County Deputy Joseph Johnson:  The program is into its second year.


Esteem MagazineWhat are the stats on the current prison population and what percentage are teens and young adults in Georgia? In the U.S.?

Fulton County Deputy Joseph Johnson: There are almost 60,000 inmates in Georgia prisons and jails. Georgia ranks second only to Texas in percentage of its residents in prisons and jails. Georgia operates the fifth largest prison system in the nation. Of  the almost 60,000 inmates .48 percent are between 17 – 18 years of age, about 260. On any given day, about one-third of the total population of inmates at the Fulton County Jail are between the ages of 17 – 24 years of age.


Esteem Magazine: Explain what the kids will experience while in the program. 

Fulton County Deputy Joseph Johnson:   When the kids come to our program, we greet them with a display of authority. They will register with their parents and the parents will explain to the Sheriff why they brought their kids to us. The parents will leave and the kids will stay with us for the next 7–8 hours. Each kid will encounter an intense “drilling” from our Commander about their behavior and they are given an opportunity to explain their actions. Next they will be escorted to a courtroom where they will either talk with a Judge, Prosecutor, District Attorney or Lawyer or they may sit in and witness a trial in progress or both. Then they will be transported to the Fulton County Jail where they will observe the life of an inmate in jail. They will go through the same process starting from the intake unit to being dressed in jail attire to eating the same food as the inmates. Ultimately, they will be taken to a maximum security unit where they are allowed to talk to the inmates and ask questions. The inmates will talk to the kids about their behavior and the consequences of that behavior. They will tell the kids “you do not want to be like me.” At the end of the day, the kids will go back to the courthouse and write an essay of what they learned during the day, along with their plans to change their behaviors.


Esteem Magazine: Is the program for girls and boys? What are the age groups?

Fulton County Deputy Joseph Johnson: The program is for boys and girls alike. When we take them to the jail, the boys will go to the male unit and the girls will go to the female unit. The age groups for the kids are ages 10 – 18 years of age.


Esteem Magazine: What are some of the bad behaviors exhibited by children prior to participating in the program?

Fulton County Deputy Joseph Johnson: These kids are displaying qualities such as disrespect to teachers, disregard for authority, disrespect to parents, bullying, drug and alcohol abuse, etc. The purpose of this program is to stop the bad behaviors before they lead to a life of crime and incarceration. The parents only have to call Fulton County Sheriff’s Office Community Outreach Section at 404 612-9185 to enroll their kids. Parents can start calling on the first day of each month.


Esteem Magazine: How many participants have you had in the program since its inception (estimate)?

Fulton County Deputy Joseph Johnson: Over 250 kids have been through the program.


Esteem Magazine: How is your program unique from the “Scared Straight” programs?

Fulton County Deputy Joseph Johnson:   We are unique from the “Scared Straight” program in that we do not try to scare the kids. We only give them something to think about. Unlike “Scared Straight”, we give them an up-close and personal look to see for themselves what will happen if they continue their bad behavior.


Esteem Magazine: Has the program received national recognition?

Fulton County Deputy Joseph Johnson:  The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office Youth Intervention Program will be featured on the A&E Network’s “Beyond Scared Straight” to be aired in August, 2012. We have not been given a date yet.

Esteem Magazine: What are the contributing factors of behaviorial problems in kids who have participated in the program?

Fulton County Deputy Joseph Johnson:  Some of the contributing factors of the kids are peer pressure, kids disrespecting themselves and others, a lack of moral values, a lack of discipline and hidden or built-up anger.

Esteem Magazine: What other community programs do you offer?

Fulton County Deputy Joseph Johnson: The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office Community Outreach Section offers many programs and services to the community. We offer:

1)     Senior’s program providing safety tips to seniors.

2)    Chaplaincy Program where we have over 30 pastors and chaplains that attend regular monthly meetings with the Sheriff and come together to discuss issues involving the church communities.

3)     Homeless Initiative Program where we provide necessities to the homeless.

4)     We work with the Business Associations and discuss issues involving the business community.

5)    The G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education and Training) Program.  This includes going into the schools and teaching the students about gang resistance.

6)    The Explorers Program where kids ages 14-18 years of age are being trained to become future Law Enforcement officers.

These are just a few among many more programs and services we provide to the community.

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