Jailed high school graduates encouraged to 'do what's right'

Published: Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 07:59 PM.

"You're going to have to be the meanest, toughest person you've ever been," Mikel said. "That doesn't mean you have to fight. It means you have to have courage" to avoid trouble.

Embraces and back slaps after the ceremony marked the first time most of the students had touched family members since incarceration.

"This is the first time they've seen their loved ones when they're not behind bulletproof glass" in the visiting room, Simmons said.

Voluntary effort

Under the program, jail officials provide a classroom; student-produced instructional displays line the walls. However, challenges abound, including students’ early release before the academic year’s end, or being unable to attend class when confined in "The Hole," the basement discipline unit. Some return to the program after being arrested on another charge.

The program is voluntary. No statistics indicate whether those who graduate are more likely to succeed when released back into society.

Still, Simmons said having attained their GED certificates offers students hope, opportunity and a sense of self-confidence.

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