DoJ Working to Improve Education in Juvenile Detention Centers


The Department of Justice is hard at work in their efforts to improve the education system within juvenile detention centers.

The 33-page Correctional Education Guidance Package was released by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today, detailing five important principles to offer high-quality education for about 60,000 confined juveniles within the more than 2,500 centers across the country.  The cabinet secretaries said that providing a quality education, especially for younger offenders, has been proven to help prevent return trips to prison.

“Students in juvenile justice facilities need a world-class education and rigorous coursework to help them successfully transition out,” Duncan said in a statement.

Young people shouldn’t fall off track “for life, just because they come into contact with the justice system,” he said.

The principles discussed in the document include offering a safe facility that focuses on and encourages education.  The authors suggest this happen through developing positive and respectful atmospheres while simultaneously working to prevent any misbehaviors prior to their occurrence.  In addition, they suggest that expectations are made clearly known.  Research suggests that students within a safe and supportive environment are more likely to succeed in life.

The second principle involves obtaining all needed funding to be able to fully support educational opportunities for all youths within the centers, including minorities and those with disabilities.  The authors suggest this be accomplished by planning out education budgets at each center and level within the facility.

Principle three discusses the importance of the employment and retention of qualified education staff who are skilled in dealing with juvenile detainees and can cause a long-term positive impact on their lives.  Because students in these centers are often academically behind their peers, they are especially in need of teachers who have the skills to close that achievement gap and motivate them to continue to learn.

The fourth principle suggests that a rigorous curriculum, aligned with state standards for academic and career and technical education, is necessary for these centers, as research suggests it is this type of curriculum that increases post-high school achievements.

The final principle outlined by the authors discusses the need for formal processes and procedures to ensure successful navigation and a smooth reentry into communities outside the centers.

In addition to these suggestions, the document states the importance of the state’s obligation to education students with disabilities within the centers.  It also states that youth within the centers could qualify for federal Pell Grants if other criteria are met.

The program is a part of President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, created by the White House in an effort to close opportunity gaps for young minorities.  A task force for the initiative released a report in May, suggesting that the government work to “reform the juvenile and criminal justice systems to reduce unnecessary interactions for youth and to enforce the rights of incarcerated youth to a quality education.”

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