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EWG students visit ACI

December 2, 2010

The gate swung open - this time - as EWG students were warned about the consequences of unlawful behavior.


It’s not everyday that a group from high school takes a field trip to the Adult Correctional Institute. This past Thursday, a group of students from Exeter-West Greenwich High School hiked up to Cranston to visit the Maximum Security Facility. The program led at the ACI, the Special Community Outreach Education Program (SCORE), focuses on influencing middle and high school students to make the right decisions now—before its too late. Inmates voluntarily meet with the students and speak openly about their pasts, the offenses they were incarcerated for, and life behind bars. The program has a huge impact on students. 
Helen King, a teacher at the Exeter-West Greenwich, organized the field trip. The students met in the visitation room with six inmates, each having a turn to tell their story, how they became involved in crime and their sentences. 
“The prisoners talked to us about what they did. They emphasized how one thing could mess you up and bring you to prison. It was pretty scary,” said Alyssa Metivier, one of the students on the trip. Each inmate had a powerful story on the students. However, the inmates placed much stress on the fact that they weren’t there to provide a fun day away from class. They truly hoped to influence the students’ future decisions.
“They really stressed that it wasn’t a field trip and were not there to entertain us. They wanted us to really take something from it,” said another student on the trip, Mike Tortolano. SCORE was originally developed to give students a firsthand perspective into what one bad decision could do to your life— an important concept for students to fully grasp. The program needed to be taken seriously, and the inmates certainly emphasized its importance.
“One of the prisoners had even been on this fieldtrip in his past, and yet he ended up in there,” said Tortolano. Another prisoner told them how he had been a great student and athlete in high school; however, he ended up involved with drugs and later sentenced to prison for one hundred years. The inmates’ stories hit home with the students. 
“Mrs. King told a story about a kid from college who feel asleep at the wheel and killed someone. He went jail,” said Metivier. “People need to see that this could happen to anyone. It opens your eyes.”
After the group meeting, students were split into smaller groups with two inmates to discuss deeper subject matter. 
“We didn’t focus much on the actual crime, but more so on how to make good decisions. How one dumb decision could lead to twenty-five years in jail,” said Alex Horlbogen, another student who attended. “I left there a little shaken up. A lot of students were affected. Television glamorizes prison life, but seeing it first hand is eye opening.” 
The students were also able to walk around and see some of the prison cells. They were given an idea of what prison entails that typically isn’t portrayed in the media.
“It wasn’t a nice place; a lot of violence happened in there. People get stabbed weekly,” said Tortolano. He recalled how the trip realistically changed the common perception of prison. “I learned that they’re not tough guys. They told us they are cowards. They said, ‘you guys think that we’re tough?’ One student answered yes. Then they said, ‘well, we are not. Next time you are in a bad situation, think about us.’” 
Leaving the Correctional Institute, the group of students gained a new perspective. While they may be making good decisions now, they should be wary of how much an impact one mistake will have on their future.  
“I learned that it’s easy to break the rules, but harder to follow them. Even with school, it’s easy for us to not do the work, but we should try to do things that are harder and not go the easy way.”
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