January 11, 2005 by

Ed Earnest

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Categories: Education, Law

Edward Earnest believed in giving people second chances. Forty years ago, a prison warden and a mental health specialist gave him one that changed his life.
Earnest began breaking into stores and stealing food when he was only 11. Several years at a reform school didn’t provide the discipline and direction he needed. At 16, Earnest was sentenced to state prison for robbery.
While serving his time at the Draper Correctional Center in Elmore, Ala., warden John Watkins and Dr. John McKee, Alabama’s director of Community Mental Health, decided to rehabilitate him. Earnest earned a GED in prison and vowed to help other troubled youths avoid making the same mistakes he had.
After his release in 1966, Earnest attended the University of Alabama and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work. In 1970, he founded C.I.T.Y., a skills training program in Tuscaloosa, Ala., that helps at-risk youths obtain their GEDs. The mission of C.I.T.Y., which stands for Community Intensive Treatment for Youth, is to prevent troubled teens from participating in criminal activities. Participants are usually referred by juvenile court judges when parenting and regular school programs fail to turn the kids around.
Ten C.I.T.Y. programs currently operate in Alabama, and serve 600 to 700 kids a year. Each center is staffed by teachers and counselors that help the youths develop the social, behavioral, academic, technical and family skills they need to become productive members of society. In 1995, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency recognized C.I.T.Y. as a “promising and effective program.”
Earnest died on Jan. 5 from cancer. He was in his early 60s.

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