Just Learning: The Imperative to Transform Juvenile Justice Systems into Effective Educational Systems

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A Study of Juvenile Justice Schools in the South and the Nation

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Author(s): Southern Education Foundation

Published: April 17, 2014

Report Intro/Brief:
"[The report] provides powerful evidence that young people placed in the juvenile justice system-predominately minority males incarcerated for minor offenses-are receiving a substandard education.

The report argues that education for the 70,000 students in custody on any given day is setting them even further back in their ability to turn their lives around.

Drawing upon the most recently available data from the nation's largest database on teaching and learning in juvenile justice systems, the report finds that the quality of the learning programs for incarcerated youth have had 'little positive, enduring impact on the educational achievement of most children and youth in state custody.'

In 2009, for example, most "longer-term" students (those enrolled for 90 days or more) whose progress was documented failed to make any significant improvement in learning and academic achievement.  Incarcerated youth in smaller facilities closer to their local communities actually made less progress than students enrolled in state systems. That was particularly true in the 15 Southern states, where the proportion of students enrolled in local facilities increased from 21 percent of all incarcerated students in 2007 to almost 60 percent in 2011.  Part of the problem, the report says, is that the programs, which serve youth with serious learning and emotional problems, provide young people with limited supports.

Taken as a whole, the report found that effects of juvenile justice programs are "profound and crippling," and set young people back when they should be turning lives around, according to the report."
-Southern Education Foundation