Academic journal article Journal of Correctional Education

The Status of Education in Pre-Trial Juvenile Detention

Academic journal article Journal of Correctional Education

The Status of Education in Pre-Trial Juvenile Detention

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

While considerable research has been conducted on educational practices and programming for incarcerated youth, significantly less attention has been given to short-term detained youth. The high transience of pre-adjudicated youth, legal protections pending trial, and varying levels of collaboration with correctional personnel have made it challenging to thoroughly examine the educational status of juvenile detention centers. This study presents the first national survey to focus exclusively on programming for detained youth. A sample of 340 administrators from juvenile detention centers in 47 states responded to an online survey. Although 96.2% of facilities were reportedly required by law to provide educational services to resident youth, the quality of programming differed greatly across regions and individual centers. Less than 7% of programs were accredited by the American Correctional Association and only 66.9% reported participating in No Child Left Behind (NCLB) assessments. Nearly three-quarters did not always receive students' academic records and more than 20% did not systematically develop or use individualized education plans (IEPs). Fewer than half of programs offered transitional services for exiting students. Open-ended response data indicated that the rapid mobility of students, highly diverse learning needs, and general lack of resources pose the biggest challenges for providers. Additional findings and recommendations are presented.

Introduction

Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, juvenile detention centers and youth commitment facilities are generally distinct and separate entities. A detention center is distinguished from a training school or other long-term secure facility in that it holds and serves pre-adjudicated youth, or youth awaiting court disposition. In fact, 72% of children in detention centers have not yet been committed to the custody of correctional agencies (Snyder a Sickmund, 2006). Centers may also temporarily hold adjudicated youth until they are placed at another facility. In most states, juvenile detention centers function as secure and residential facilities. Of 2,964 LLS. correctional facilities that served youth in 2003, 769 self-identified as detention centers, as opposed to long-term secure facilities, group homes, or other. Detention centers are relatively small compared to long-term secure facilities: 86% of detention centers had fewer than 100 residents. 71% had fewer than 50 residents (Snyder a Sickmund, 2006).

Little is known about educational programs in pre-trial juvenile detention centers. Juvenile detention centers are built and programmed almost entirely around custody and security concerns. The emphasis on security over programming is generally justified by the short-term nature of detention, safety of the youth, and prevention of flight before the scheduled court date (Lawrence a Hemmens, 2008). Limited information is available on best practices for educating youth in the juvenile justice system whether committed or detained. Existing empirically based educational practices do not readily transfer to the unique environment of a secure setting or adequately address the intense needs of court-involved youth (Leone, Krezmien, Mason a Meisel, 2005). The few studies that have investigated juvenile justice education have been conducted in commitment facilities rather than detention centers. Krezmien, Mulcahy, and Leone (2008) maintain, "Detention and commitment facilities generally differ with regard to the types and intensity of services available to incarcerated youth" (449). Detention centers may have unique challenges that commitment facilities do not, such as students' uncertain lengths of stay, more varied academic needs within classrooms, delays in record transferring, and interruptions due to legal meetings, medical appointments, or diagnostic testing. "Understanding differences between characteristics of youth in detention and commitment placements is also essential for allocation of resources for special education and related services to short-term and long-term facilities based upon documented needs" (Krezmien et al. …

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