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June 13, 2010

Offenders give back to community

Faith, character-based program teaches life lessons to troubled youth.

LOGANSPORT — A group of offenders from the Logansport Juvenile Correctional Facility broke a sweat and got their hands dirty toiling in a garden where food is grown for the less fortunate.

On Friday, the juveniles gave back to the community by working in the Salvation Army garden at 620 Wilkinson St. in Logansport. The day outside the tall fences topped with razor wire at the correctional facility came as part of their programing that helps them become better members of society.

“Community service is a very vital part of our students’ rehabilitation prior to re-entry into society,” said Mark Harmon, director of the program called CLIFF, which stands for Clean Lifestyle is Freedom Forever. “Even though these students are providing an essential service to our community, the therapeutic value is much deeper. The students who perform community service learn valuable lessons that they can carry with them when they leave the facility.”

The male offenders that worked at the Salvation Army will be released in July of this year. They all have either earned their GED or are currently taking the test to earn it. Some are planning on

continuing their education in college or technical school, while others plan to go straight into the workplace. Some will be taking classes at Ivy Tech and Vincennes University, while one young man

wants to attend culinary arts school to become a pastry chef.

The offenders said they have learned about themselves and their communities throughout CLIFF.

“The program has helped me and has done a lot for me,” said one juvenile. “It’s helped me sign up for college and establish new connections with some of my old family that I’d lost connections with. It’s helped me put things together.”

Other offenders have come to realize the errors of their old lives.

“This program has helped me decipher what’s right and wrong. It gives me a bunch of opportunities to do what’s right and give back to the community and help out,” commented another offender.

The philosophy of the CLIFF program is to live a life free of drugs and to treat people the way that you would want to be treated. Besides giving something positive back to the community, the

program gives troubled youth the opportunity to be trusted once again.

CLIFF is a drug treatment program, but the offenders work on more than just substance abuse treatment. They work on their attitudes, personalities and getting closer to their families.

“I’ve accomplished so much since I’ve been up here, more than just my sobriety. I’ve got a better attitude and outlook on things,” said another one of the offenders.

Food from the garden, including kohlrabi, green beans, cabbage, and sweet corn, will be used in the feeding program that serves lunch at the Salvation Army, and the leftovers will be used in the food pantry.

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