Collaboration between Correctional and Public School Systems Serving Juvenile Offenders: A Case Study

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study attempted to develop an understanding of the relationship between an educational and a human service agency which provide services to juvenile offenders. Descriptions have been provided of how public schools and correctional facilities interface and the possible effects of this interface on programs which serve juvenile offenders. This study supports other work which suggests that juvenile justice and public school systems must work together to effectively meet the needs of this growing population of youth.

Current statistics indicate that in 1993 over two million arrests of juveniles were made by law enforcement agencies. In 1992 there were 1,471,200 cases referred to juvenile court (U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1994; U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1994). A number of researchers have identified a relationship between delinquent behavior and poor academic performance (Baker, 1991; Carriker, 1963; Empey & Lubeck, 1971; Gold & Mann, 1972; Kauffman, 1997; Silberberg & Silberberg, 1971).

Baker (1991) has stated: "School performance is by far the most single predictor of delinquency and future criminality -- more accurate than race or economic level or social class, more accurate than any of the sociological variables commonly considered to have an effect on the rate of delinquency.... Today, a boy with poor grades in high school is more than six times as likely to be in trouble with the law as is the youth earning above-average grades" (p. 61-62).

Juvenile delinquency has also been found to be related to other factors such as truancy, tardiness, poor relations with peers, and low respect for authority (Empey & Lubeck, 1971; Lewis, Schwartz, & Ianacone, 1988). Additionally, it has been reported that disability incidence rates range from 20%-42% for the correctional population compared to 1O%-12% found in the general population (Lewis et al., 1988; Nelson, Rutherford, & Wolford, 1987).

The delinquent population has been historically served by a number of agencies or systems; for example, juvenile justice, child welfare, mental health, and educational systems. However, there is a limited history of these separate systems working together for the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. There have been numerous reports indicating the need for integrated services between the juvenile justice and educational systems (Bazelon, 1983; Constable & Walberg, 1988; Elder, 1979; Fredericks, 1994; Karez, Paulson, & Mayes, 1985; Lewis et al., 1988; Webb & Maddox, 1986; Swan & Morgan, 1993). However, examples of such integrated services are difficult to find. Bazelon (1983) suggests that if services remain fragmented, children will never be effectively served.

There is now a call, and in some cases legislation, that mandates interagency collaboration to serve the juvenile justice population. Although collaboration is widely advocated, examples of successful collaboration are few, and the resistances to collaboration are not well understood. Juvenile justice and education personnel often feel overwhelmed with the number and complexity of daily tasks and responsibilities they manage (Swan & Morgan, 1993). This suggests that one response to these demands for collaboration may be that organizations and personnel feel such activity is "just one more task." According to Swan and Morgan, effective interagency collaboration depends on the establishment of new perceptions by agency personnel concerning their roles and the roles of their agencies, and the relationships among them. Success also depends on Agency willingness to adjust existing roles, policies, and procedures, and ultimately, collaboration success will be based upon trust between the organizations and the indiv iduals within them.

The purpose of this case study was to understand agency relationships and educational processes of youth who are in a county operated correctional facility for juvenile offenders and the public schools who serve these youth. …