Incarcerated juvenile offenders are in great need of high-quality education, a federal report says.
“Providing youths with quality educational services during incarceration is essential to keeping them engaged in their education and focused on their futures,” reported the U.S. Department of Education (ED), and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
There are more than 2,500 juveniles in residential facilities across the U.S. This presents unique challenges to administrators, teachers and staff who are responsible for the rehabilitation and welfare of youths committed to their care, the December 2014 report states.
The ED and DOJ have recommended guiding principles conducive to providing high-quality education in juvenile secure-care settings such as:
A safe, healthy facility-wide climate that prioritizes education, provides the conditions for learning and encourages the necessary behavioral and social support services that address the individual needs of all youths
Necessary funding to support educational opportunities for all youths within long-term secure facilities
Recruitment, employment and retention of qualified education staff with skills relevant in juvenile justice
Rigorous and relevant curricula aligned with state academic and career and technical education standards that utilize instructional methods, tools, materials and practices that promote college and career readiness
|“Providing youths with quality educational services during incarceration is essential”|
Formal processes and procedures through statutes, memoranda of understanding and practices that ensure successful navigation across child-serving systems and smooth re-entry into communities
In 2011, there were more than 60,000 youths detained or committed to juvenile justice residential and secure care facilities.
“Many of these youths have experienced abuse or neglect, unsafe neighborhood environments, homelessness and/or involvement in the child welfare system,” reported the ED and DOJ.
Research provides compelling evidence of the negative effects on youths of long-term commitments to juvenile justice secure care facilities.
For example, experiencing incarceration as a youth greatly increases the likelihood of re-offending.
The change in focus to strength-based positive youth development approaches could represent a major organizational shift for juvenile justice agencies.
It is the responsibility of government at every level to work with communities and secure care facilities to ensure that youths are provided every opportunity to rehabilitate and successfully re-enter society.
“This report is but a first step toward mobilizing collective action to ensure that all secure care settings can become true engines of hope, opportunity and advancement for some of our most at-risk young people,” said the ED and DOJ. “As a nation, we must do no less.”