The Mansfield Juvenile Treatment Center has often been the topic of much debate. Over the course of the past few years, those who live in the area have noticed a decline in the security and reputation of the center. However, over the past seven weeks, that stigma has changed.
Rite of Passage took over operations at the facility on July 1. Under the leadership of Program Director Gary Curry, the MJTC has undergone substantial changes and improvements.
Curry, who is from the Wister area, has spent a lifetime working with youth and adult offenders. He was offered the position with Rite of Passage after a mere two weeks into retirement from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The job was a custom fit for Curry. “Mr. Curry was a good choice, and he was excited to get back to the area where he’s from,” stated Mike Cantrell, Executive Director of the Southeast Region.
Cantrell added that ROP has successfully transitioned many programs over the years. The first step, according to Cantrell, is to change the culture. “Before, the kids were calling the shots. The first thing we had to do was set boundaries and make our expectations be known, both to the kids and to the staff.”
Cantrell admits that those expectations were costly when it came to staff changes. Approximately 60 percent of staff members left just prior to, and at the time of the takeover. Cantrell contends, however, the changes were for the overall good of the program.
Judging from the performance over the past few months, he’s right. The facility has not seen an escape since ROP assumed operations.
The program implementation has been “a lot of hard work,” but undoubtedly one with a mission to reach as many of the kids as possible. “It’s a balance of safety, security and structure as well as a holistic approach to achieve the maximum benefits of treatment for these youth,” Cantrell added.
Cantrell noted that Curry has worked closely with the Division of Youth Services to add enhanced lighting, and extra fencing.
With improved safety and security in place, the ROP family can focus on the other aspects of rehabilitation. Curry’s motto: “our job is prevention and not creation.”
Curry and his staff make it a point to know each student athlete by name, and he routinely visits with them one-on-one. “Giving these kids structure and guidance makes the difference,” shared Curry.
Going forward, Curry plans to improve community relations through the implementation of an advisory board. “We want to give back to the community,” concluded Curry. “I want to change the the overall culture here. We want to build a bond back with the community, and let everyone know we are here to help these kids.”