News 12 at 11 o'clock/ Tuesday, Oct. 22nd, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Former inmates spent Tuesday night talking to students, parent and staff at the Alternative School about their time "behind the prison walls".
Their crimes range from drug trafficking to aggravated assault to murder. Some served just a few months, others were locked up for years, but each one has the same message.
"He was telling me how prison is," said student La'Coriea Smith. "It's not a joke."
La'Coriea listened as ex-con after ex-con after ex-con shared their stories. But for La'Coriea, it's a message he's heard many times before from his dad.
"I was 17 when I got incarcerated and I did 12 years all together," explained his father Tuwain Smith.
Smith was convicted of second degree murder.
"I do my best now to teach my son to stay out of trouble and do the right things and let him learn from my experience because a lot of things he's going through, I already went through," he explained.
It's a story he shares with his son everyday, but Tuesday night he shared it with dozens of people at the Alternative School.
"You get away with stealing a doughnut, the next thing you know you're stealing a loaf of bread, the next thing you know you're stealing a car," explained Tuwain.
Many of the kids have already made that first mistake that sent them heading down the wrong path.
"You definitely gotta catch them right now because once they start going down that particular path you gotta stop them," said Tuwain.
Nearly a dozen former inmates shared a real picture of what life is like in an 8 x 10 cell.
"You see folks being raped. You see folks being stabbed and killed. There's a lot of things that go on behind the prison walls so we try to reach the kids before they reach the prison walls to try to change them so they don't have to go down the same road we went down," said former inmate Daniel Quarles.
It's a message Smith believes he's already learning thanks to his dad and one he hopes his classmates will learn too.
"I hope they learn that prison is not a joke. I hope they learn that they do not wanna go there or they do not want to go to jail," said La'Coriea.
Some of those former inmates were also former students at the alternative school. Many of them have joined a group called Reach One, Teach One mentoring program that works at the school a few days a week.