Sunday, March 9, 2014

Memories of Metro

Now on the verge of his 20s, a young man who spent time at an Atlanta detention center recalls his experiences, and how they have impacted him as a fledgling adult.

Photograph courtesy of Ric Frye.

By: James Swift

South Holland, Ill. is a far cry from the world Ric Frye knew as a teenager.

While the 19-year-old network communications and management major now spends his days studying the inner workings of computers at DeVry University, he grew up in Adamsville, a neighborhood in the Westside of Atlanta. And for a few months, his “home” was Georgia’s largest youth detention facility.

At the age of 13, Frye was sent to the Metro Regional Youth Detention Center, a-200 bed facility in DeKalb County. Designated as an “unruly child,” Frye said he was held at the RYDC for approximately three months.

Prior to entering Metro, Frye said his life “wasn’t the best.” Even so, he said the worst trouble he got into at school was for refusing to do his assignments.

“I never really acted out,” he said, “until I got around the age of 13.”

Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Frye said he was on medications like Ritalin at the time of his detention stay.

“My first day was kind of boring,” he remembered. “The window thing had  a big glass door on it, so there was no privacy.”

Frye’s recollections of his time at the RYDC are somewhat faint, but he doesn’t recall the transition to facility life being too difficult. “Personally, I adjust to different situations easy,” he said.

That’s not to say he didn’t have his occasional worrisome episodes, however. On one occasion, he recalled being confronted by several detainees.

“I was in the cafeteria, and some dudes coming out of the cell block, they tried to fight me,” Frye said. “But I fight back, and I didn’t get in trouble.”

Other residents, Frye said, suffered far worse. He recalled hearing about the sexual assault of another detainee, explaining the incident through intentionally nondescript verbiage.

“The worst thing I heard about was about this one guy,” Frye said. “He made some other dude do something with him.”

Frye does not recall receiving any counseling or mental health services while at the RYDC, but he did receive certain educational services. Despite his quarter-year stay at the facility, he said he was still able to graduate from the eighth grade on time.

“Education” at Metro, Frye said, was very different from what he experienced at school.

“We’d go into a room and we’d grab a book and a piece of paper,” he said. “We’d sit down and do our assignments. There wasn’t really any teaching.”

The personnel at the facility, Frye said, acted very professional and courteous. “The guards, they do a good job, from what I experienced,” he stated. He said one overseer would frequently meet with detainees doing night detail. “He would just sit down and talk with us,” Frye said. “He didn’t have to do it, but he would, and I kind of thought that was respectful.”

Frye inexpressively recounted what his last day at Metro was like.

“All I remember is getting in a van, going to the courthouse, and the next thing I knew,” he said, “I was home.”

After his experiences at the RYDC, Frye said has whole outlook on life had been transformed. “The way I approached the entire situation had changed, the way I looked at it, the way I looked at people,” he stated. “It made me not want to go to prison, to not have my freedom taken away.”

Reflecting on his experiences at Metro, Frye said the biggest problem he observed wasn’t necessarily the detention center itself. Rather, he said the area where Georgia most needs to tighten up is in its law books.

“I’ve heard stories about how some kids do stuff, but the thing with the law is, they look into the eyes of the parents, they don’t really look into the eyes of the kids,” he stated.

“They should change that, see what the kid sees and instead of just persecuting them, see what he sees and see how he feels.”

After leaving Metro, Frye found himself picking up an unusual -- although interesting -- hobby: robotics.

For roughly a year and half, he was a programmer for the University of Alabama at Birmingham-sponsored nonprofit Blazer BEST Robotics, Inc. While at Wenonah High School in Birmingham, Frye was part of a robotics team -- affectionately known as the Wenorobots -- whom bested seven other rookie teams at FIRST’s 2012 Bayou Regional competitions held in Kenner, La.

Frye said he’s currently looking into starting his own robotics project in South Holland. “I’m thinking about forming a team at the local high school here,” he said. Continuing, he said such a program would’ve certainly helped him out as a younger teen.

His top priority, however, remains obtaining his network administration degree. “I’ve always been good with computers, and just to do something like programming with computers, messing around,” he said, “it’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Uncommon Journalism, 2014.

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