Teen cops a time for red.., p.5
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       Teen Cops 'A Time for Redemption', p.5

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Chapter 5

  My prayers had been answered when a spate of new inmates started to arrive bright and early the next morning. I watched out of my window as a procession of prison buses pulled up outside the main gates, each brimming with fresh faced juvenile delinquents. An announcement was made over the PA system to say that the canteen was now officially open and breakfast was being served. Certainly news worth jumping out of bed for and I just loved this place. Warden Ellis joined us for breakfast and I watched as he mingled, eating toast with inmates at one table and drinking coffee with his staff at the next. One of the guards handed the warden a microphone and I was half expecting him to break into song. Warden Ellis got up on his chair to say a few words about what was expected from us all at Mount Hood and to outline some of the more important house rules. What was impressive was the fact that everyone had stopped to listen and it was obvious that the warden commanded immediate respect. He went on to say how important the trial scheme at Mount Hood was to both himself and the Governor of Oregon.

  ‘This correctional facility was built for the sole purpose of helping inmates to complete their rehabilitation and to go on to better things,’ said the warden quite profoundly.

  We applauded both the words and the sentiment. As I walked about speaking to some of the inmates, it was evident that the majority had been selected for their special skills like me. I guessed we were here to teach as well as learn from each other, which was all gravy to me. Classes had been scheduled to commence that same afternoon, as the last few inmates should have ‘checked in’ by then. In total there would be 125 inmates at Mount Hood, all from very different backgrounds and with a variety of criminal offences to boast about. Nothing to be proud of I know. I took the dim view at first, that we were all here to take part in a giant experiment in juvenile correctional techniques. Who wouldn’t want to be a guinea pig for the penal system I thought?

  No doubt because I was the first to arrive at Mount Hood, the warden gave me the mundane task of greeting the last few inmates as they arrived and escorting them to their cells. I was desperate to do a first class job at being concierge just to get into the wardens’ good books. I was right about the inmates having to do daily chores and mine included cleaning the IT classroom and maintaining the equipment (hey why pay a professional when you can get an inmate to do it for free). I also had numerous reading assignments, workouts in the gym and computer science lessons, which was all very tiring. When I wasn’t working, I could be heard tapping away on pretty much anything around the compound, as I used to be the drummer in a local band. We were doing pretty well on the local concert circuit, until I managed to screw up and got myself arrested. I was busy drumming away one morning on my mop handle, when the mystery girl walked past. Not being one to give up, I tried to start a conversation and this time things went a little better because I actually managed to get her name, Jordan.

  ‘Goodbye Jordan,’ I said as she walked off to her class.

  ‘Goodbye Scott,’ she replied. Finally the ice queen was starting to thaw. I continued to mop with a smile for the rest of the morning.

  With 21 months of my sentence left to serve, things had actually gotten off to a good start and I thought I could be happy at Mount Hood. The place was pretty amazing after all. We had a music room, an Olympic size swimming pool and gym. A giant sports room with a TV, pool and table tennis tables, indoor and outdoors basketball courts, plus a running track. It was too nice for teenage criminals like us and I actually thought it was a bit like being back at high school, but with one difference, you weren’t allowed home after class.

  The Warden encouraged every inmate to sign up for extra classes and I chose the music class as my extra curricula activity. As I mentioned, I could already play the drums, but a few extra free lessons couldn’t hurt. At the end of the first music class, I felt the sudden urge to show off and played a 45 second drum solo. This got me a loud cheer from everyone in the class except Jordan, who rolled her eyes in disgust at me for time wasting. I did start to wonder what her problem was.

  Our music teacher Mr Gardner asked the class for volunteers. Anyone who thought they could actually play an instrument should stay behind after class for his new project. There were just five volunteers including myself and I was shocked once again to see Jordan picking up a bass guitar. This girl was full of surprises, although a little moody at times. Mr Gardner gave us a few minutes to have an informal jamming session which helped him gauge how well we could play. There was definitely some musical chemistry between us which the teacher was keen to nurture. His idea was to form a band, a sort of ‘junior jailhouse rock,’ and I figured it might be cool to be in a band again. Mr Gardner suggested we stay behind after classes every night for the next week or so, to practice under his supervision. We introduced ourselves to each other and on lead guitar and vocals we had Brandon Jackson, me on drums naturally, Josh Mackenzie on guitar, Molly Carter on keyboards and percussion, while our mystery girl Jordan Taylor played bass guitar.

  We just goofed around during the first few practice sessions without any real direction before Mr Gardner suggested it might help if we met up one evening to properly get to know each other. It was a great idea and we arranged to meet in the basketball hall that night.

  We got to talking straight away about our life stories, which is usually a good ice breaker and boy did we have some interesting tales to tell. Brandon went first, telling us how he could have had a promising future in basketball before it was all taken away. Unfortunately after one of his high school games he got himself involved in a fight with two players from the opposing team who both wound up in hospital. The boys’ parents pressed assault charges, leaving Brandon’s school with no alternative but to expel him. He ended up in juvenile court and received an 18 month sentence for assault. I did feel sorry for Brandon as he continued to protest his innocence. It sounded obvious to me that he’d been racially provoked, but it was the testimony of ‘two white boys,’ as he put it, that swung the judge’s decision. All I cared about was that Brandon had a fantastic singing voice and could play a mean guitar. A bit selfish I know.

  What was Josh’s story? Here was a young man who loved cars and it sounded like he could fix anything on wheels, but sadly he also had a compulsion for stealing them. His last car boost came at a high price, after being pursued by the police in a stolen Porsche 911 at 130 mph, he lost control and managed to flip the car head first into a lake. The cops hate a long car chase and more than that, hate having to rescue a suspect from the river. It’s a paperwork thing I’m sure. Josh earned himself a two year sentence for this and no doubt countless other vehicles he had not been found guilty of stealing. Naturally I had to ask if the Porsche made it, but ‘sadly no,’ Josh replied with a wry smile. He did feel some remorse for his reckless behaviour, which is a good start.

  Molly had a shoplifting habit, which had totally spiralled out of control and she was serving 18 months. She partly blamed her delinquent behaviour on her father who was absent for the most of her childhood, serving in the US military. The other part she blamed on getting in with the wrong crowd. No excuse, but it can be a catch 22 situation. Jordan, our mystery girl, was caught in possession of Class A drugs and her sentence was two and a half years, which sounded like a lifetime to me. You know my story by now, rich kid gone bad and all that. There was one thing we all had in common though and that was the amount of heart break we’d caused for our families. We’d already been given community service for previous misdemeanours and various ‘second chances,’ but not learnt our lesson, so juvi centre was the best place for us. Now here we are, five teenagers thrown together by chance.

  That was enough dwelling on the past for one night and we headed down to the court to shoot a few hoops. I made sure Brandon was on my team and it was truly mesmerising watching him play. With that much talent he would have made it all the way to the pro league, but I wasn’t gonna be the one to remind him about lost opportunities and all that.

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