Jackson Milton students get talk, tour of jail

By Joe Gorman



The only things separating Lori Waigand and Michelle Spencer from the group of Jackson-Milton High School seniors they spoke to Thursday at the Mahoning County jail were age, choices and wardrobe.

But two of those things — choices and wardrobe, are intertwined.

Waigand and Spencer are both inmates at the jail, and they spoke to the students about the perils of making bad choices and where it could land you: in a cell at the jail and orange jail coveralls.

“It only takes one bad decision to take your freedom or your life,” Waigand told the students.

Waigand, of Canfield, and Spencer, of Atwater, told the students that in high school, they were honor-roll students, excelled in sports and were generally well-liked.

But they also experimented with alcohol and drugs in high school and ended up in jail as adults.

Waigand told the students that she went through a rough patch from age 18 to 21 with arrests, stayed sober from 21 to 28, married, graduated from college, had a job, then began using drugs again to the point where she now is awaiting a three-year prison sentence.

At times, family members told her they were glad she was in the jail because she would not be on the street using drugs, Waigand said.

She missed out on being a bridesmaid at her brother’s wedding and also will be in prison when her brother’s wife gives birth to her first nephew or niece.

“I’m going to miss out because of the choices I keep making,” Waigand said.

Spencer said her heroin addiction was so bad that she was selling the drug to support her habit. That not only got her arrested on state charges, but she is facing federal time because she also sold the drug.

Spencer said she never thought her life would turn upside down the way it has.

“If you would’ve told me I would be here talking to you today, I would’ve said you were crazy,” Spencer said.

Sheriff Jerry Greene said Jackson-Milton and Western Reserve seniors both listened to the inmates and got tours of the jail. Those schools have deputies who also are the school resource officer.

Greene said he wants to make an impression on the students about what can happen if they make a bad decision and choose to drink or use drugs, especially during the upcoming prom season.

“The goal is to open kids’ eyes and make them more aware of what can happen if they make poor choices,” Greene said. “We want to inform them of how deadly bad decisions can be.”

Students also visited the area of the jail where juvenile inmates who are bound over to common pleas court are held.

Erin Keich, one of the students, said the talks and tour made a big impression on her.

“This is terrifying,” Keich said. “I definitely got the message.”

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