Correctional units adopt city schools

December 05, 1992|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

Jazmon Johnson, 8, saw the dark blue uniform and blac shoes with a sparkling mirror shine yesterday and immediately identified the wearer as a correctional officer.

The third-grader at Mildred Monroe Elementary School has visited at least one correctional facility in East Baltimore and knows the guards "all dress that way."

But Jazmon doesn't want to see too much of them except on Fridays when correctional officers from the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center meet with 30 to 50 students at the school in the Greenmount West neighborhood for a session of exercise and lessons in life.

Officer David Jefferson, the guard identified by Jazmon, is one of the correctional officers who volunteer at the school.

"I'd like to do whatever it takes to make sure that none of the kids never come in there where I am," Officer Jefferson said. "I want them to think positive about themselves and keep them off the streets."

The visits that began last year are an effort by the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to steer students at four East Baltimore elementary schools away from trouble. The other schools are Johnston Square Elementary School, Thomas G. Hayes Elementary School and St. James and St. John Catholic School.

Devon Brown, assistant commissioner of the state Division of Correction, an arm of the public safety department, said the

schools were "adopted" by his agency because many of their students are from broken homes, or have family members who are incarcerated.

"This is an opportunity by those who best know the perils of incarceration to contribute toward abating it," Mr. Brown said. "Gear them away from prison facilities."

The volunteers fund activities for the children out of their own pockets, Mr. Brown said. But they welcome donations of money, educational equipment and toys for the children.

"This is the first program of its nature in the country," Mr. Brown claimed.

Anne Roberts, principal at Mildred Monroe Elementary, said the correctional officers fill two needs -- they offer recreation to the students at a school with no physical education teacher and provide male role models.

"That's particularly important," Ms. Roberts said.

However, Latoya Williams, 8, another third-grader, said the officers have another meaning to her. "This just make me feel good."

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