Pulaski Co. Middle School students learn about life behind bars

They went as a part of the jail’s ‘life choices’ program

PULASKI, Va. – When these students stepped off of the bus, instead of heading to class, they were searched.

“You’re just thinking, ‘This could be me. In ten or so years, this could actually be my life,’” seventh grader Kaylin Keiper said.

Pulaski County Middle schoolers experienced life as inmates for the day as a part of the New River Valley Regional Jail ‘Life Choices’ program.

“Life is a series of choices. And that’s how we get along in life, making good choices or bad choices,” one jail employee said.

Employees explained how jail works, even showing them contraband collected from inmates.

“I think a lot of children need to hear that,” Keiper said.

Students were assigned a crime, and locked in cells for just a few minutes to get the full experience.

Keiper wasn’t impressed.

“I got identity theft, which really isn’t a cool crime,” Keiper said.

The lesson they want kids to learn here is no crime is cool.

Student Rachel Woodyard says she doesn’t want to spend any more time in a cell.

“It’s really cold in there,” she said.

To round out the day, students got to hear from a current inmate, Jennifer Andrews, who said kids should be taught at a young age.

“I was right at the same age as them when I initially started making some bad choices, so I don’t want to see them go down that road,” Andrews said.

Andrews has a thirteen-year-old of her own and says she spoke to these students like she would her son.

“It gives me chill bumps because it could just as well be him out there. It allows me to speak from the heart. I would love nothing more than to say those exact same words to him,” Andrews said.

Andrews’ story hit hard for Keiper.

“There are more people like her that are going through that and I felt horrible,” Keiper said.

Woodyard said she hoped it made an impact on her classmates.

“If any kids are like doing it and they heard that, they’d probably think about what they’re doing and stop,” Woodyard said.

For Andrews, it meant as much for her as it did for the kids.

“I’ve made decisions that have stolen people’s peace, and I want to restore this even if it’s by telling the negative choices I’ve made,” Andrews said.

About the Author

Abbie Coleman officially joined the WSLS 10 News team in January 2023.