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Lawson believes crime video will help youths

By Maria-Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson unveiled an educational, crime video, during the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce's "SunTrust Early Bird Breakfast" Thursday morning.

Lawson, who was the guest speaker at the event, said the video was created to address the negative consequences of armed robbery for young people between the ages of 11 and 25. She said most of them, who commit armed robbery, are surprised to hear the stiff sentences their crimes draw in the courtroom.

Lawson added that the majority of individuals who commit armed robbery in Clayton County, are young men between 17 and 19. "Over the years, I've watched young man after young man be convicted of armed robbery," said Lawson, in the video.

According to Lawson, when individuals involved in an armed robbery admit their guilt, they are sentenced to 10 years in the state penitentiary and are not eligible for parole or early release.

Individuals who do not accept their responsibility, and are proven guilty at trial, are sentenced to 20 years in prison, and are not eligible for parole or early release, according to the video.

"It happens every week in Clayton County ... We are spending an enormous amount of money on children who [do stupid things]," said Lawson, to the audience.

She said the video was recently copyrighted, and has been shown in several Jonesboro churches, including Divine Faith Ministries International, Andrews Chapel United Methodist Church, and at Crossroads Youth Development Center.

She said it is the only one of its kind in the state of Georgia, and she expects the video to reduce the number of young people coming into courtrooms for armed robbery.

"I thought it [the video] was a great initiative," said Yulonda Beauford, president and CEO of the chamber. "I don't think young people realize the severity of the crime, and how many years they can be incarcerated."

Lawson said the video will start to be shown in Clayton County middle schools and high schools, on Sept. 1.

In conjunction with the schools, chamber officials used the occasion to announce that the organization will partner with Clayton County Public Schools in the "2010 Principal Partner's Day" program, in which business and community leaders will be able to visit county schools, and gain insight into the challenges of running a public school, by shadowing school principals for a day.

This will be the first time the chamber and the school system have come togehter for the program, said Beauford. "We [chamber] are trying to get business people in our schools," she said.

"As we face our accreditation [issues], what happens with our school system affects our community, including our businesses," she explained. "The stronger, more vibrant school system we have, the better off our community will be."

Rhonda Burnough, community relations liaison for Clayton County Public Schools, said the goal of the program is to show individual leaders what a public school offers, in hopes that the individual will sponsor that school for a year.

Burnough said leaders may include their employees in this public service. "Employees can volunteer in the school, or mentor students," she said.

Tim Hynes, president of Clayton State University, said the program will assist, and open doors for, individuals to contribute to student learning.

"Educated individuals have higher incomes, and are less likely to encounter law enforcement," said Hynes, during a phone interview.

Hynes, who was present during the breakfast event, said he belongs to the chamber's board of directors. He said schools drive economic growth in an area, and help bring in new businessess.