Inmate speaks to 500 students about consequences of drunk-driving

By Lieutenant Travis Wright | Central California Women’s Facility
Each year, Madera High School presents its “Every Fifteen Minutes” (EFM) program, a sobering account of the potential consequences of drinking and driving aimed at high school seniors.

Students play roles of killed or injured victims of drunk drivers, along with the role of the driver who caused the tragedy and subsequently goes to jail. After a simulated crash on Thursday, April 26, the Madera High senior class, about 500 students, gathered the next day in the school’s gymnasium for closing remarks.
Michelle Stearns was the guest speaker. The gymnasium was dark, with a single spotlight on her, as she began telling the story of how a drunken driver changed her life and her family’s.

She detailed every aspect of a Sunday that a young girl chose to drink and drive. The young girl hit a man on a bicycle, killing him. Stearns told of the girl’s experiences following the accident – from arrest and trial to entering state prison.

Stearns then told the students that she was that girl.

She stepped from behind the lectern and removed her civilian clothes to reveal an orange prison jumpsuit. She placed her hands behind her back and waited as a correctional officer came out of the surrounding darkness to handcuff inmate Stearns, #WE2167.

The two walked briskly out of the gymnasium, amid gasps and the sounds of crying from the audience as students, mothers and fathers were struck by what could happen – to any of them – as the result of a single poor choice. 

“We need to reach our teens if we want to effect a change in future criminal behavior,” said Deborah K. Johnson, acting warden of the Central California Women’s Facility. “I am very committed to our local area and will help as much as I can to show young adults what consequences can come as a result of poor choices.”

“The program went very well, and it’s good that inmate Stearns was able to have the impact she did in trying to change these students,” Johnson said.