From Correctional Education to School Reentry: How Formerly Incarcerated Youth Can Achieve Better Educational Outcomes

By Pace, Sonia | Texas Journal on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights, Spring 2018 | Go to article overview

From Correctional Education to School Reentry: How Formerly Incarcerated Youth Can Achieve Better Educational Outcomes


Pace, Sonia, Texas Journal on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights


I. INTRODUCTION.................................128

II. YOUTH AT REENTRY................................128

III. RELEVANT FEDERAL POLICIES................................130

IV. CORRECTIONAL EDUCATION................................131

V. EDUCATION REENTRY TRANSITION SERVICES AND PROGRAMS................................133

VI. OBSTACLES TO SCHOOL REENTRY................................135

VII. ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS OFFER AN "EASY OUT"................................138

VIII. RECOMMENDATIONS................................139

1. Implement individualized, long-term educational planning from intake to discharge................................139

2. Encourage greater collaboration between state education agencies, local school districts, and juvenile justice facilities................................139

3. Align correctional education curricula and standards with local school districts................................140

4. Increase tracking and evaluation of academic outcomes.................................140

5. Place more social workers in public schools to support youth in transition................................141

6. Mandate that schools accept formerly incarcerated students................................141

7. Increase investment in and funding for correctional education and reentry programs................................142

8. Implement best practices in the continuum of educational services....................143

CONCLUSION............................143

I. Introduction

Though education may be essential to reducing the risk of recidivism, research shows that many formerly incarcerated youth still experience dismal educational outcomes.1 Each year, approximately 100,000 youths are discharged from juvenile justice facilities and return to their communities2 to face a myriad of challenges, including difficulties with high school reentry3 and diploma attainment.4 Many released juveniles do not return to school.5 By contrast, eighty-eight percent of the general U.S. population graduates from high school or has a GED.6 These outcomes suggest an ineffective continuum of correctional education and school-reentry processes. This Note seeks to identify how correctional education, school-reentry processes, and education-transition programs contribute to the educational outcomes of formerly incarcerated youth. This Note also provides recommendations on how stakeholders can achieve better educational outcomes for youths who have been in correctional settings.

II. Youth at Reentry

Formerly incarcerated youths are more likely to experience distinct personal and academic challenges at reentry. They are more likely have been involved in child welfare systems, as well as being relatively more likely to be a racial minority or male.7 They are more likely to have experienced trauma and neglect before incarceration, and to have significant need for mental health services and substance abuse treatment.8 They are also more likely to experience poverty and to have financial responsibilities,9 with one in eleven reporting having children of their own.10

Formerly incarcerated youths also face academic challenges. Twenty-three percent of incarcerated youth have learning disabilities, though experts suspect the actual figure may be higher.11 These youths are likely to be behind in literacy and schooling when they enter the juvenile justice system; an estimated seventy-five percent of the 150,000 youth in detention in 2009 were high school dropouts, and many were not fully literate.12 Correctional education often does not get students up to speed, in part because it may lack sufficient services for special education, English Language Learner (ELL) programs, and remedial education.13 Furthermore, incarceration during youth-a crucial point of intellectual development-has a fundamentally disruptive effect on education attainment. …

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