Structure of Intellect and Learning Style of Incarcerated Youth Assessment: A Means to Providing a Continuum of Educational Service in Juvenile Justice

Article excerpt

Abstract

The authors analyzed data on the information processing abilities of incarcerated youth (n = 1480) within a correctional center. The goal was to develop a learning style profile of the juvenile offenders. Based on the current sample, they concluded that the bulk of the students were figural learners in terms of the preferred modality for receiving information. Their strongest processing abilities were creativity (15% scored in the superior range) and memory (29.2% scored in the superior range). With regard to the level of complexity, the students' strengths were in relationships and transformations. Transformations are very similar to creativity and confirm the need to allow for a classroom structure that promotes student involvement, movement, open-ended questioning, and contributions. Addressing the cognitive skill needs of incarcerated youth is presented as a viable option for reducing recidivism within the juvenile justice system.

Introduction

We have seen three periods of rising crime rates. The first between 1960 and 1981, the second between 1985 and 1990, and a third between1993 and 1997. (UCR, 1997). Analyses of correctional treatment approaches such as those of Martinson (1974) and later Whitehead and Labs's (1989) evaluation have concluded that the treatment efforts have had little effect on recidivism. The inability of juvenile correctional systems to productively impact on juvenile crime and recidivism has led to greater frustration and an increasing public demand to "get tough' on crime. This stance has diverted attention from focused efforts to develop research based interventions that are more likely to have value rehabilitating and reforming juveniles. The focus instead has been to just lock them away with harsher sentences and in some cases with adult criminals without consideration of consequences. Whereas age was once a consideration for leniency, it is now more likely to be dismissed by the public and carries less weight as a mitigating factor when sentencing juvenile offenders. The consequence is there are increasing numbers of juveniles being waived to adult court, some juveniles are serving their sentences with adult populations, and other juveniles begin their sentences in juvenile facilities but when they come of age risk being transferred to adult prisons to finish their sentences.

Generally, the public, the media and even politicians have shown very little interest in the factors that cause recidivism and even less interest in preventing it. Increasing public fear and frustration has shifted the emphasis from protecting the juvenile to protecting society, and calling for juveniles to be accountable for their actions earlier in their life. (McLatchey, 1999). It is painfully obvious that the punishment approach has failed to be successful and that rates of recidivism have not been diminished despite the longer sentences and the increases in waiver to the adult system. What also seems apparent is that recidivism will persist at unacceptable levels and that acts of criminality will also continue upon release until something alters the existing patterns.

Education History

There is ample documentation validating that what occurs in schools, the family, and the community contributes to delinquency and ultimately the incarceration of youth. The adolescent has failed academically and in the community. Drakeford (2002) stated that the main goal for incarcerated youth should be to teach them the fundamentals of reading and writing. This assertion is based on the frequently cited correlation between educational failure and delinquent behavior. According to Meltzer (1984) academic difficulties and school adjustment problems appear very early in the educational life of incarcerated youth. Meltzer indicated that by the end of second grade, 45% of these children were delayed by more than a year, and grade retention has occurred in nearly one third of them. These difficulties continued into the fifth grade and were followed by increased truancy. …