Corcoran State Prison REACH Program connects inmates with at-risk teens

CORCORAN, Calif. (KFSN) -- Tuesday, 22 students from Citrus High School in Porterville went to prison.

They're not starting a sentence.

They're spending a day in the life of an inmate, learning about their mistakes, and hearing their message of hope.

Despite what it may look like, it's not a scared straight session.

The inmates are members of Corcoran State Prison's REACH Program-Rehabilitating, Educating, and Creating Hope for local at-risk students.

There's no screaming involved, no intimidation-just inmates, some serving life sentences, trying to make a connection with students.

They told them they still have time to change before they end up in their shoes.

"If I could leave you guys with one thing today, I would tell you guys that this lifestyle is not worth it," said one inmate. "It's not worth it because it will always turn on you. So why not just enjoy your freedom and your family?"

Dennis Hicks has run Corcoran's REACH Program for the past four years.
He says it has a track record of success-for students and inmates.

"One of the things I've found is a lot of these guys have either little brothers, little cousins, or children of their own, and they feel that they've failed them because they don't get a chance to tell them, 'Learn from me.' So a lot of these are surrogate cousins, nieces, nephews, kids of their own, and these guys are sharing their experiences and making sure that they can fix one kid and stop them from making their mistakes."

D'Angelo Gant, 17, got a tour of the prison on Tuesday.

But he also had a one on one session with an inmate, who took the time to listen to Gant, ask him questions, and offer him advice.

"The things we talked (included) why I chose what I did before in the past," Gant said. "But at the same time he wanted me to understand that whatever I done before, it doesn't determine who I'm going to be in the future."

The young men can now say they've seen where they can end up if they take the wrong road in life.

But the future is theirs, as long as they remember what happened on Tuesday, and choose the right path.
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