Tom Bevard, who travels around Kansas visiting inmates in prisons, has noticed a disturbing trend.
“(We) realized that a lot of our population in our prison system was younger and younger,” Bevard said. “We have about 35 percent of the inmates in Kansas are less than 29 years old. Almost 90 percent is drug- and alcohol-abuse related.”
So Bevard and his son, Randy, started the Road To Freedom program. They travel to Kansas middle schools and junior highs to talk to students about staying out of trouble. But they needed a hook to grab the attention of gymnasiums full of kids.
“We play a lot of guitar,” Randy said. “We just want to show kids they can invest in music instead of drugs or something they shouldn’t do.”
An hour-long presentation at South Junior High Thursday included rocking tunes and videos from men and women who are incarcerated in state penitentiaries. For the past 14 years, Bevard has done outreach work through his group, Freedom Ministries, based in Iola.
“(The videos) opened my eyes to see that when they’re in prison, they still have the opinion telling people they shouldn’t do drugs,” ninth-grader Nick Bullock said. “They know their mistakes and they learned from them.”
Tom and Randy have been talking to kids for about two years and this was their first stop in Lawrence. They want to leave a lasting impact.
“Hopefully, it’s a deterrent,” Bevard said. “It’s not just a deterrent that brings the negative part of the inmates speaking, but also the positive part of the music.”
Eighth-grader Puja Shah thought it was a glimpse of the consequences of going down the wrong path.
“It gives us all an idea of what is going to happen if we did something like that,” Puja said. “Learning it now really helps everybody else know that it’s not safe to do.”