SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) - Many of them first come through the doors handcuffed and escorted by police officers, but inmates at the Saginaw County Juvenile Facility recently had reason to celebrate.
Officials there reached out to local airbrush artist Devaughn Collins after Director Elverna Ponder saw artwork he created on one of her employee's leg cast.
The idea was to have Collins work with a group of teens to create a mural for the gymnasium wall, according to The Saginaw News ( http://bit.ly/KRIWs7 ).
"We wanted to bring out in the kids what they saw as positive in the city," Ponder said. "So many times we here about the negativity. We wanted to see what they had that was positive."
The result: an airbrushed mural with images of historic Saginaw such as Hoyt Library, the Bancroft and the Bean Bunny; words like hard work, truth, joy, forgiveness and courage; a likeness of LaMarr Woodley and a quote from one of the inmates, who has since been bound over to adult court, which reads, "Maybe we can turn it all around 'cause it's not too late. It's never too late."
"Some of these kids are facing prison for serious crimes, and for them to be able to see all of that positive says a lot about them," Ponder said.
Collins said he was surprised at what the teens came up with.
"They wanted those buildings in downtown," Collins said. "I was surprised they knew about the train bridge. It shocked me because people would think they only see negative, but they came up with all of the things I painted."
Collins met with the group a few times in November to outline the project. The painting was completed Dec. 6.
"I asked them to tell us, 'How would you picture our city in a positive way?'" Collins said. "This is what they came up with."
One inmate, Carl, gave a speech during the dedication ceremony and encouraged the group to stay positive.
"If you guys want to be positive in Saginaw, you don't have to have your name up there," he said referring to the mural, "but start making positive strides to become successful."
Saginaw County Probate Judge Faye M. Harrison believes the project is something that should be done with more of the county's youths.
"Often we see young people get in trouble because they don't see success in other activities," Harrison said. "We have some pretty violent kids here, and what amazes me is they spend 95 percent of their time just being kids. It's the other 5 percent we need to focus on.
"We need more positive things to keep them occupied. I'd love to see us carry this sort of thing out into the community."
Information from: The Saginaw News, http://www.mlive.com/saginaw