MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - For the last 15 years, a program in Memphis has been working to break the destructive cycle of juvenile crime through faith-based intervention.
Retired businessman David Vaughn admits he and his mentee 17-year-old Albert Jones come from a different worlds.
“I don’t think we’ve really focused on our differences, we’ve focused on our strengths and one of the primary things that we’ve been focused on since we met each other is trying to get him back in school to get his degree,” Vaughn said.
Jones has been in and out of juvenile detention over the last few years. His father is incarcerated, and his mom works long hours to provide.
He said a lack of guidance is what led him down a road to self-destruction.
“Hanging around the wrong group, not wanting to listen, not having a lot of discipline,” Jones said.
Right now, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris is pushing an initiative for multi-million dollar Juvenile Justice and Education Center focused on rehabilitation for kids like Jones.
Department of Justice statistics show 11,000 youth enter the Shelby County Juvenile Court every year, and 75 percent re-offenders are at a high risk of moving into the adult system.
Vaughn is a volunteer mentor with Juvenile Intervention and Faith-Based Follow-Up, or JIFF.
“I think one of the biggest challenges might be is understanding the time it may take,” Vaughn said. “Things move slow.”
No longer mandated by court orders, Jones participates in JIFF because he says it’s a lifeline.
“They have helped me accomplish a lot of goals,” Jones said. “I can call JIFF family.”
“The mentor month is important because we need people to pour back into their community, back into their people,” said JIFF case manager Dionysus Sisson.
Through faith, hope, and love, Vaughn and Jones said JIFF brought them together, a mentoring seed that continues to grow.