About 35 low-risk male offenders at the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility in Camarillo recently painted a mural on a brick wall outside their residence hall to honor the victims of the school mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., the Ventura Star reported.
They had begun painting a Christmas mural as part of an annual decorating contest. But when they learned of the shooting, they decided to shift their theme toward something to remember the victims, the newspaper reported.
“A lot of us are fathers; a lot of us have little brothers and sisters. It hurts us, too. Just because we’re in jail doesn’t mean we don’t feel remorseful. We thought this was a way to give back to the community, to show they’re not the only ones hurting for them,” Jean Paz, 21, a resident in the Mira Mar housing unit at the correctional facility, told a reporter.
“Although the memorial was a collective idea developed over two weeks, the design and finished product were placed in the hands of four young men at the facility — Paz, Mario Lopez, 21, Jesus Ortega, 21, and Hernan Hernandez, 19,” the newspaper reported. “They said they wanted to design something that mirrored artwork of elementary school-age children.”
The mural design is a chalk Christmas tree on a black background decorated with snowmen and presents. Around the tree are the names and ages of the 20 children and six adults fatally shot Dec. 14 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Sheldon Jones, a senior youth correctional counselor for the Mira Mar unit, said that he and another staff member provided the names of the victims.
“That’s the thing we try to instill in them,” Jones told the newspaper. “When they start thinking beyond themselves, they start learning the feelings behind being a victim.”
Facility Superintendent Victor Almager said that at first he didn’t recognize what he was looking at, until he read the names.
“These are baby names — that’s what I saw,” Almager told the newspaper. “The youths were expressing their feelings toward those kids in that community.