Inmates speak to students about gang life

Kia Redding spoke to kids about how she went from honor roll student to jail inmate because of her bad choices / Sarah Bleau

One inmate calls it scarier than a haunted house.

The Dougherty County Jail.

Two inmates spoke with Turner Elementary School students, and when they asked the kids if they were asked to join a gang before, more than a dozen raised their hand.

"I expected that because now that's all you hear about, all you see is gang activity. And the reason why I did want to come out here was to tell them there's other ways, other options other than just being in a gang," says Kia Redding, one of the inmates who volunteered to speak to the kids.

Redding â" who's been arrested 18 times -- was one of two inmates who told Turner Elementary School students their stories about their life of crime and now their life in jail.

"I'm in a two man cell where my roommate is a killer, my roommate has killed somebody and I'm just here for breaking a finger," says Redding, who says she went from being an honor roll student and college graduate to being a gang leader.

She says looking at the faces of the kids as she spoke to them, she says she can tell she made an impact and even shocked them.

"If it was my first time going to jail, I would try to stay out of jail, because that was scary," says Fifth Grader Mark Davis.

"I heard what they had to eat and how it felt in jail and that they cry every night," says Fifth Grader Joseph Veen. Inmates say they eat the same meal everyday which consists of some type of sandwich; none of them have pillows and are cold during the winter.

The inmates also talked about their experiences with gangs. Redding says she joined a gang because she was trying to be popular.

You ain't got to join no gang. A gang is for a coward. And that's what I was: a coward. And for somebody who is really just stupid and dumb. A gang is going to be your downfall. A gang is going to lead you right here where I am: in jail," says Redding.

She says she wanted to bring a message to the students and believes she got through to the kids.

"When you grow up don't pick the wrong choices that people tell you; just go with what your parents say, teachers, faculty," says Davis.

"When you go to jail, it's hard to get out of jail," says Fifth Grader Epicurioua Fratier.

The two inmates say getting out of a gang is easier than getting out of jail. They say once you get involved with the police, you can get out.

The inmates say education leads to a brighter future than gang life.

Although she says she can barely get a job at a fast food restaurant, Redding is determined to utilize her degree in Electronic Maintenance and Repair by opening up her own business when she gets out of jail in January 2012.