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Sheriff's Office opens its own summer camp

The Henry County Sheriff's Office is launching a program geared toward helping young people make good decisions for their futures.

The agency will host a Sheriff's Summer Camp June 7-11, from 8 a.m., to 5 p.m. It is designed for youngsters 12 to 14, a period that Sheriff Keith McBrayer calls a "volatile" time in the life of a child. McBrayer is in charge of the camp, and gets assistance from a team of deputies in his department.

"We continue to see young people coming to jail ... and just continually making bad decisions, for a lot of different reasons," the sheriff said. "We need to get to our youth. We see it over and over. The juvenile courts are just covered up. The [Regional Youth Detention Center in Griffin] is full of kids. The jails are full of people making bad decisions. If we can get some of these kids and steer them right — if we can do that with just one kid — it's worth having a summer camp."

McBrayer added that the camp will enable him to address concerns he raised when he was seeking the office he now holds. "We've got to have some programs for the youth, getting them on track," he said.

The campers, McBrayer continued, will go on a tour of the Henry County Jail, and will be taught about drugs, and various aspects of law enforcement in the county. "We're going to do a mock crime scene, where they're going to basically come in and gather evidence," McBrayer said. "They're going to have a little trial demonstration, where they're going to see how the court system would work."

Some children in the camp, the sheriff added, will act as members of a jury during the mock trial. Others will act as attorneys, and one will be judge — all of them using a script which ties into a staged crime scene.

McBrayer is hopeful the camp experience will serve as a way to reach young people in Henry County, and not just those who may be at risk for committing crimes later in life.

"We want them to see things that affect people that make decisions that are wrong," the sheriff said. "We're hoping they can do it in a fun way, where they can see a lot of things and laugh and have a good time, but they can learn at the same time, about decision-making."

Sgt. Jimmie Spence, of the Community Relations Division of the sheriff's office, said he hopes young people will receive a positive message about the agency. "We need to let them see us as real people," Spence said. "We are moms and dads doing our job. We want the youth to see that we care about them. We're not out to put them in jail. We don't want to see them in jail."

The sergeant added that even though the camp's initial offering will be for a small percentage of kids in the county, he would like to see it grow in popularity over time. "If we can start with 25 kids, maybe they'll tell their friends that we're not bad people," said Spence. "We're not the enemy."

The camp, according to McBrayer, will also feature activities, such as fishing, soccer, and other forms of recreation, at selected sites near the sheriff's office. A graduation ceremony will be held on the final day of the camp, for those who complete the program, the sheriff said.

"We hope to do it every summer," he said. "It's worth the effort. Whether it's successful, I can't tell you, but it's worth the effort for us to do the program."

The camp is limited to the first 25 Henry County children who apply at the Sheriff's Office, from 8 a.m., to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

In addition to submitting an application, McBrayer said, a $35 registration fee is required.

For more details, call Stephanie Carnell, at (770) 288-7107, or Sgt. Jimmie Spence, at (770) 288-7143.