Detention center provides juveniles with education

Published 10:28 pm Thursday, October 11, 2007

NATCHEZ — Until very recently, offenders in the Adams County Juvenile Detention Center were not doing much of anything all day long.

But that all changed with the adoption of the Education in Detention Act passed in March by the Mississippi Legislature.

The act simply says that, as wards of the state, students must receive an education while in detention.

Email newsletter signup

According to youth court judge John Hudson, education is the burden of the state.

Hudson said that parents, until their children are 16, are responsible for their children’s education. When the state has custody of a child, the state acts as a parent. Therefore, they must provide an education.

So with the start of the new school year, kids in juvenile detention started going to class.

While the setting and uniforms are different, the schedule and structuring of the class closely mimics a regular classroom.

Gwendolyn Marshall is the new fulltime instructor in Adams County. Marshall has 32 years of teaching experience.

“These are the same kids in our neighborhoods,” she said. “For me, it’s worth it when you see that light bulb go off when the finally get a concept.”

Each student coming into Marshall’s class must first take an assessment to determine their current level of education.

Marshall said that many require some remedial education.

After the assessment, the students spend their days in classes that focus on math and English skills.

Marshall’s desk is stacked with papers and binders filled with lesson plans and students’ assessments, but not for long.

Soon the students will have Internet access that will greatly reduce the amount of material Marshall needs.

“Every time someone comes in I start a new binder. When we get online I can just have their file. If they come back in we can just pick up where we left off,” Marshall said.

Both Marshall and Hudson are confident in the program no matter the technology.

“There is a direct correlation between juvenile delinquency and lack of education,” Hudson said. “We want to correct that.”

And while the classes at the detention center are small, the students like them.

“This is better than laying around in the block all day,” one young man said.