The City of Jacksonville in partnership with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Pre-trial Detention Facility and Florida State College at Jacksonville has created a program known as DAWN. The program provides GED instruction and remediation, life skills training and transitional counseling necessary for the young adult males and females sentenced by the county to successfully reintegrate into society.
To provide our participants with the tools needed to make positive decisions necessary to successfully reintegrate into society.
DAWN works with incarcerated young men and women to help them achieve three important goals:
- Earning a high school diploma,
- Finding meaningful employment, and
- Permanently staying out of the criminal justice system.
The program is readily available to provide services to participants regardless of their ethnic or socio-economic status. Classroom instructors, transitional counselors and liaison officers, at the jail, work in partnership to help participants earn their Florida high school diplomas and provide them with job readiness training and life skills to help them make better choices and improve their chances for success.
Operating from a 'one-room schoolhouse' in the Duval County Pretrial Detention Facility, DAWN has accomplished great things. To date, more than 150 male participants – an average of more than one per month over the life of the program - have earned GEDs, and the recidivism rate for those completing the program is less than 10 percent, compared to a rate of more than 23 percent for the comparable population. Several graduates have even gone on to attend college and other career ventures.
The implementation of the DAWN for Female program, in March of 2010, created for the growing population of incarcerated young females an opportunity to earn a high school diploma, receive counseling assistance to advance their academic studies, and life skills training necessary to prepare them for the practicality of obtaining gainful employment and sustaining a life style free of crime. In the first eight months of the female program, nine young women completed the requirements to earn their high school diplomas with a zero percent recidivism rate. Several graduates have enrolled in college and vocational schools.
DAWN's success and the number of older juveniles in the criminal justice system clearly demonstrate the need for expansion, particularly in the areas of client follow-up and remedial education. Expanded follow-up is important both for statistical evaluation of the program and to assist in the ongoing rehabilitation of former clients. (An example of the latter is a student who failed the GED exam by one point. DAWN staff members located the young man - who had completed his sentence - and worked with him on their own time. The next time he took the test, he passed.) Educational challenges abound. For instance, applicants should function at least at the 9th grade level in order to qualify for the program. Yet very few young adults in the jail test higher than the 5th or 6th grade, and most of them need intensive help to improve their chances of GED completion and/or employment. Adding a remedial component would increase successful completion of the program and the percentage of high school diplomas earned by participants, in turn enhancing their earning potential and reducing recidivism.