Jail Classes KeepingTeens Educated

The first class at the Youth Detention Center on Dec.1, 1999, at the youth detention center, where classes were held in a small, crowded day-room. Now, the teenagers attend class in a portable building behind the center, and the classroom setting provides a learning opportunity that's never been offered before to the teens in trouble.

The teenagers behind bars get individual attention from their teacher, just as if they were in a normal school. Since the classes began more than a year ago, 250 students have successfully completed courses taught by David Williamson and Barbara Hicks. The kids say they know it's for their own good. "It's going to help me good so I won't fall behind in classes," one teen says.

All the young lawbreakers are required to go to class. The kids say it gives them a more constructive way to spend their time, other than playing cards and watching TV.

"My grades from here are goin' back to Harrison Central High School and my teachers are lookin' at it and I get credits for what I do here," one 15-year-old boy says.

Many students are behind in their studies. To get them back on the same track as their classmates in regular school, the kids learn math, english, and whatever lessons their school provides.

"We want to see them go back to school, that's the big thing," one teacher, David Williamson, says.  "When they get back there, most of them are going to go ahead and complete that year of school."

Williamson says he has seen some very bright kids, whose education shouldn't stop just because they got in trouble.

"They just made some bad choices, and hopefully that will all square away one of these days and they'll be out there and be productive in society again," Williamson says.  "That's what we're reaching for."