The Herald Bulletin

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Local News

April 12, 2012

Juvenile inmates build Habitat homes

ANDERSON, Ind. — Four teenage boys, wearing jumpsuits speckled with fresh white paint, prepared to call it a day as they finished work on an under-construction Habitat for Humanity house.

The work was messy, one boy said as he wiped paint from his forearm. But it meant he was one step closer to going home — his real home, not the correctional facility he’s in.

“It was fun, I guess. I never built a house before,” he said.

The teens are inmates at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility. Every week the facility brings a group of Level 4 inmates — the level before release — to assist Habitat for Humanity.

On Wednesday, the boys coated the inside of a house near Sycamore and 12th streets with oil-based paint. A week before, a different set of inmates built a porch.

“It’s a good skill builder,” said project manager Eldrick Bullock.

The house is scheduled to be completed in June and will become the fifth house in six years to be built in part by facility inmates.

For Bullock and other facility staff, projects like these are about “restorative justice,” allowing kids who have taken from their communities through criminal behavior the chance to give back.

While Bullock said most of the kids have minimal experience in construction, their energy and youth make up for it.

“(Habitat for Humanity) has been real appreciative of their hard work. They like the muscle they bring,” Bullock said.

Carl Graddy, executive director of Madison County Habitat for Humanity, said the teens have done “a little bit of everything,” from working on the foundation to roofing.

Habitat was recognized last year for its work with juvenile inmates, Graddy said.

“We were the only one where (the inmates) came out of the prison to do work for us,” he said. “All the other organizations went inside the jail to work with the kids.”

To reward teens for their efforts, Graddy asked facility staff if he could buy them pizza.

“The kids really got a kick out of that. They probably hadn’t had pizza in a long time,” Graddy said.

Eric Courtney, program director at the facility, said the teens benefit from the builds.

“Even if they’ve only been working for four hours, they can look back and feel like they’ve accomplished something. I think that’s a big help,” Courtney said.

According to Courtney, 80 percent of kids who leave the facility aren’t arrested as adults. In fact, he wants his kids to be “boring.”

“I want them to go out and be taxpayers and give back to the community,” Courtney said.

Find Sam Brattain on Facebook and @SamBrattain on Twitter, or call 640-4883.

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