A drug-related double homicide is not how anyone imagines their grandparents dying. For Denton County Sheriff’s Deputy Charley Smith, this story hits close to home.
“A family member stabbed my grandfather to death, who I am named after, and shot my grandmother to death in 2004. All for drug money because he was addicted and had been for quite some time,” Smith said.
Helping head up the Denton County Sherriff’s Office Juvenile Impact Program for the past four and a half years, sharing his story is one of the reasons Smith wanted to be involved early on in his career.
“By doing all this, if I could just help save one life, it would all be worth it,” he said. “Nobody deserves to be affected by crime like this that could very easily be deterred early in life.”
The Juvenile Impact Program is a one-time, four-hour class for first-time offenders and at-risk youth in Denton County and surrounding areas, with classes divided for males and females.
It was recently chosen as “Program of the year” at the 102nd annual convention for the International Association for Truancy and Dropout Prevention on Oct. 24 in New Orleans.
“It’s all about small choices leading to big consequences,” Smith said.
Structure and good parenting skills are key. Smith thanks his mom and dad for the “whuppings” he received as a child and firmly believes the program is essential in the success of not only the child, but the parent, as well.
“The parents are required to come — we speak with them while the children are being brought in,” Smith said.
Deputy Penny Campbell heads up the girls program, which was able to get its start with grant funding about a year ago.
Campbell’s program focuses on Facebook, sex trafficking, sexting, peer pressure from boys, alcohol, sexually transmitted diseases, bullying and gangs.
“Once parents take a tour through the jail, they see they don’t want their baby in there,” said Campbell, a mother of two teenage girls.
The male participants are instructed about prison and what it’s like if they were incarcerated at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department; right down to how they are required to stand, sit, walk and talk with permission.
Smith had one vision when he took over the program — expansion — something he believes he has been very successful at with the help and support of his colleagues and volunteers.
“My vision is to see more juveniles attend the program and reach them before they get into trouble,” he said.
Deputy Amanda Allen, while no longer heading up the program, is given a lot of credit from her peers for taking the reins and developing what Smith and Campbell implement in the program today.
“I am grateful for the award we all were able to receive recently and proud the program has been able to make an impact on so many young lives,” Allen said.
While most of the children involved are in the program by court order, some parents request that their children participate, and there is free open enrollment to anyone in the county.
If interested in being a participant, call Deputy Penny Campbell at 940-349-1549 or Deputy Charley Smith at 940-349-1651 to set up an interview.
“I can’t change the past, but I can work on changing the future,” Smith said.