Poetry inspires new hope in the new year for youth at detention center

The New Year began with hope through poetry for the residents of the Middlesex County Juvenile Detention Center. Artistic talent was on full display at the detention center during a presentation of poetry written by the center’s residents. Staff and other supporters congratulated the winners of the First Hugh Henry Sarah Poetry Competition Awards Ceremony at the end of December, 2016.

“We strive to give all our youth opportunities for education and growth,” said Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios.  “I hope that this positive experience will broaden the horizons for these young people and develop their educational and emotional intelligence even further.”

The idea for the competition and awards ceremony is credited to Hugh Wilson, a volunteer from Princeton, who began teaching poetry at the facility about nine months ago. Mr. Wilson said he was inspired by the positive response from the residents, as well as by their poetry. Mr. Wilson organized the ceremony with the support of the leadership and help from the center’s staff.

“It has been an incredible gift to work with you,” said Mr. Wilson, addressing residents and staff at the ceremony.  “Thanks to the staff, the officers and most of all, you — the writers — for your bravery, honesty and openness to share your poems.”

James White, Superintendent of Youth Services, said: “On behalf of the leadership and staff here at the Middlesex County Juvenile Detention Center, we’d like to thank Mr. Wilson for his time and efforts in providing a positive and inspiring program for the residents of this facility.”

About 50 participants submitted 70 entries. Entries were judged anonymously. Fifteen poems were selected as finalists, with special recognition for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place entries.  As part of the ceremony, finalists recited their winning poems and received a certificate recognizing their achievement.

“All of our Youth Services programs are implemented in a manner that promotes positive personal growth and the development of each child’s potential,” said Freeholder Shanti Narra, Chair of the County’s Public Safety and Health Committee.

The Middlesex County Juvenile Detention Center is the secure facility for juvenile offenders that are remanded by the Family Court in order to insure their appearance at Court or to address the safety of the community. The center is operated by the Office of Adult Corrections & Youth Services under the supervision of Warden Mark Cranston and overseen by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

The winning poem is entitled, “I Am From.”


I Am From

I am From The Mother Land.
The Same Soil Where Legend Says Time Began
Where The Days Are Hot and The Nights Are Cold,
Where The Smallest Luxuries Are Treasured As Gold

Thousands Of Miles From The Busy Beats
And Daily Hustles Of The City Streets
A Whole World Away From Where I Stay
Where Kings And Queens Were Captured & Caged.

But That Was Hundreds Of Years Ago And They Say Things Change
Then Tell Me Why I Live In A Cage.


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