Sociology of Education for Juveniles in Prison

 The average stay for a juvenile delinquent in a correctional
facility is about six months.

Juveniles in correctional facilities often lack adequate resources necessary for rehabilitation, including education. Young people with minimal dedication to school have a higher risk of being involved with crime and violence, and the U.S. Department of Justice reports that juveniles in confinement have a higher dropout rate than their non-incarcerated peers, with 48 percent performing beneath grade level.

  1. State vs. Federal

    • A national juvenile justice system does not exist in the United States, and each individual state runs its own juvenile justice system. However, if a state accepts federal funds for its juvenile system, it must meet the requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. States can have variations within their programs, such as long-term or short-term facilities, private or public, and level of security, as the federal government has not created universal standards. Teens in these facilities also remain subject to their states' funding and resources, Katherine Twomey, et al., reported in "The Right to Education in Juvenile Detention Under State Constitutions," published in the "Virginia Law Review" in May 2008.

    Student Population Stats

    • In 2003, 85 percent of all juveniles placed in residential placement facilities were male. In 2005, the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement Databook found that black and Latino inmates comprised 58 percent of the entire male population of detained juveniles in the United States. Also in 2005, Mary Magee Quinn, a sociological researcher, conducted a national survey that found that as many as 70 percent of all incarcerated juveniles had some type of learning disability -- diagnosed or not.

    Classes in Detention Centers

    • Education in juvenile detention centers often consists of short, sporadic classes rather than a curriculum geared toward helping students learn skills necessary for entry-level jobs. Twomey reported that while the length of a typical school day for non-incarcerated youths is six to seven hours long, only 45 percent of incarcerated youths spend at least six hours a day in class.


    • U.S. states typically don't require teachers in juvenile correctional facilities to have advanced degrees or special training for teaching children with learning disabilities or mental health issues. Correctional facilities need more financial resources to properly train teachers and hire many more to provide students with enhanced educational attention and lower teacher-to-student ratios crucial to academic success, according to Twomey.

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