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Rehab Vs. Prison: State Program Helping Ohio Teens
DAYTON -- All too often, the criminals we report on are just children. Many times those kids are sent to jail or prison, but one program offers another option, and it appears to be working.
"I get to see the trees bloom, I just miss it a lot," said Dorian Barnhart, taking a deep breath. That breath of fresh air is a treat these days.
"Feel the warmth, it feels good. Smell the fresh air ... it's amazing," said the 18 year old, on the porch at the Montgomery County Juvenile Detention facility.
A judge convicted him of aggravated robbery in January. He's got just the essentials.
"Your sink, your toilet, your bed. It has to be made a certain way," Dorian explains, giving us a tour of the facility.
He's in a program called J-CARE, which is a residential treatment program. The alternative is juvenile prison, and Dorian says he knows he is lucky he did not end up there.
"Basically beat the kid up and took his stuff because he robbed my friend - kind of a revenge thing," Dorian said.
He says he was angry, and he has learned to get that under control here.
"We do anger management groups - shows me how to control my anger and not act in a violent way when I get out," Dorian said.
J-CARE is part of a Department of Youth Services program called RECLAIM. Instead of going to prison, the focus is on rehabilitation instead of punishment. A recent University of Cincinnati study found that kids participating in these programs are less likely to commit another crime.
"All these kids are generally coming back into our community, so the more we do to rehabilitate them, the better off we are. If we can keep them local, we can interact with them, and interact with their families, then we have a much better chance," said Judge Nick Kuntz, who decides where these kids go.
A key component of the program is getting the family involved. They can visit as often as three times a week. Dorian has had a lot of support from his mother, Angela. She has some health issues, but comes as often as she can.
As we rode up the elevator together, she remarked, "I get anxiety every time, just waiting, butterflies, excitement."
Each visit lasts about an hour. They catch up on the family, her health, his school work, they say 'I Love You,' all the important stuff.
"It seems funny that it's in this place I've been the most proud of him, but I've watched him change. His anger's gone away. Even being in this place, he's happier with himself than I've ever seen him," said Angela while smiling at her son.
Seeing mom just reinforces everything Dorian's working toward.
"I just want to be a good citizen really ... help out whenever I can. I don't want to be looked at as a criminal in my life."
While focusing on what lies ahead, for now, he'll take in all the fresh air he can get.
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