Council of State Governments Justice Center report: Little State Oversight of Educational Services Provided to Incarcerated Youth

15 Dec

Sophia Kerby wrote in the Center for American Progress report, The Top 10 Most Startling Facts About People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States: A Look at the Racial Disparities Inherent in Our Nation’s Criminal-Justice System:

  1. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Individuals of color have a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement, indicating that racial profiling continues to be a problem. A report by the Department of Justice found that blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searched

  2. While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned. The prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates. The incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color: 1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men.

  3. during a traffic stop than white motorists. African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.

  4. Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated. Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. Currently, African Americans make up two-fifths and Hispanics one-fifth of confined youth today.

  5. According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates. The data showed that 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law enforcement by schools during the 2009-10 school year. Of those students, black and Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of arrested or referred students. Harsh school punishments, from suspensions to arrests, have led to high numbers of youth of color coming into contact with the juvenile-justice system and at an earlier age.

  6. African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison. According to the Sentencing Project, even though African American juvenile youth are about 16 percent of the youth population, 37 percent of their cases are moved to criminal court and 58 percent of African American youth are sent to adult prisons.

  7. As the number of women incarcerated has increased by 800 percent over the last three decades, women of color have been disproportionately represented. While the number of women incarcerated is relatively low, the racial and ethnic disparities are startling. African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated.

  8. The war on drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color where people of color are more likely to receive higher offenses. According to the Human Rights Watch, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but they have higher rate of arrests. African Americans comprise 14 percent of regular drug users but are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. From 1980 to 2007 about one in three of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was African American.

  9. Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders. The U.S. Sentencing Commission stated that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes. The Sentencing Project reports that African Americans are 21 percent more likely to receive mandatory-minimum sentences than white defendants and are 20 percent more like to be sentenced to prison.

  10. Voter laws that prohibit people with felony convictions to vote disproportionately impact men of color. An estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote based on a past felony conviction. Felony disenfranchisement is exaggerated by racial disparities in the criminal-justice system, ultimately denying 13 percent of African American men the right to vote. Felony-disenfranchisement policies have led to 11 states denying the right to vote to more than 10 percent of their African American population.

  11. Studies have shown that people of color face disparities in wage trajectory following release from prison. Evidence shows that spending time in prison affects wage trajectories with a disproportionate impact on black men and women. The results show no evidence of racial divergence in wages prior to incarceration; however, following release from prison, wages grow at a 21 percent slower rate for black former inmates compared to white ex-convicts. A number of states have bans on people with certain convictions working in domestic health-service industries such as nursing, child care, and home health care—areas in which many poor women and women of color are disproportionately concentrated.

The question becomes is there anything that can be done to stop individual involvement in criminal activity and/or violent crime.

Denisa R. Superville wrote in the Education Week article, In Many States, Prospects Are Grim for Incarcerated Youths:

The quality of schooling for tens of thousands of incarcerated juveniles falls far short of the education their peers receive in public schools, advocates say, raising major concerns about the prospects of one of the most vulnerable groups of students.

Even as the number of incarcerated juveniles dropped significantly over the past decade, only 13 states provide students who are behind bars with the same types of educational and vocational services, including GED preparation, credit recovery, and postsecondary courses, that students in schools receive, a survey of juvenile-corrections agencies by the Council of State Governments Justice Center shows.

In a report released last month, the council found that many states do not hold schools inside juvenile correctional facilities—which can be run by the states, private companies, or nonprofit organizations—accountable for providing students with curricula aligned with a state’s college- and career-readiness standards. And many do not have rigorous oversight of educational programs at those facilities as they do for regular public schools.

While the number of juveniles in state custody has dropped in the past decade and a half, from more than 75,000 in 1997 to just under 36,000 in 2013, the proportion of juveniles in privately run and locally run facilities grew from 46 percent to 61 percent. That trend makes it harder to ensure that all students have access to programs of the same quality. (The council’s survey did not include all facilities where juveniles are locked up, including those in adult prisons.)

And students are not just shortchanged educationally when they are incarcerated, the report says. A number of states do not provide transition services to help juveniles re-enter the community, leaving it up to students, their parents, schools, and communities to figure out what to do once they are released, according to the report….

Related Stories


The Council of State Governments Justice Center, “Locked Out: Improving Educational and Vocational Outcomes for Incarcerated Youth” (New York: The Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2015).

Here is the press release from the Council of State Governments:

Study Highlights Little State Oversight of Educational Services Provided to Incarcerated Youth

November 5, 2015

By the CSG Justice Center Staff

A first-of-its-kind report released today by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center found that most incarcerated youth do not have access to the same educational services as their peers in the community, and little accountability exists to ensure educational standards are met in lock-up.

The report, “Locked Out: Improving Educational and Vocational Outcomes for Incarcerated Youth,” reveals that despite spending between $100,000 and $300,000 per incarcerated child in secure facilities, only 13 states provide all incarcerated youth with access to the same types of educational services that students have in the community. Meanwhile, only nine states offer community-equivalent vocational services to all kids in lock-up.

“On average, what states spend on these kids while they are locked up is at least three times the cost of a Harvard tuition,” said Michael Thompson (pictured left), director of the CSG Justice Center. “Policymakers making this level of investment should be asking what type of education they expect to be provided to these youth.”

While most youth incarcerated 10 years ago were in facilities operated by state government, nearly two-thirds of youth locked up in the U.S. today are held in facilities operated by local government agencies or nonprofit or for-profit organizations.

The survey, conducted by the CSG Justice Center and in partnership with the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, asked leaders in each state: Who is responsible for educating kids incarcerated in this patchwork of institutions? The report found that in more than 80 percent of states, no single state agency is charged with this authority, leaving an absence of leadership and, ultimately, accountability for ensuring youth make sufficient progress towards college and career readiness. The report also found:

  • Fewer than one in three states is able to document what percentage of youth released from a juvenile correctional facility subsequently obtain a high school diploma;
  • In nearly half of the states, it is up to the parent or guardian of the youth, or perhaps a community-based organization advocating on his or her behalf, to get that young person enrolled in a public school or another educational setting after his/her release from a correctional facility;
  • In more than one-third of states, youth released from a facility are automatically enrolled in an alternative educational setting, which often do not meet state curricular and performance standards and suffer from lower graduation rates that traditional public schools.

“This report shines a light on a group of youth who, for most people, are out-of-sight, out-of-mind,” said Susan Burke (pictured right), director of Utah’s Juvenile Justice Services. “For the first time, it’s clear that more state oversight is warranted to ensure all youth receive the necessary educational services they need to succeed later in life. I’m looking forward to working with leaders in the education community to figure out what we do about this important problem.”

On any given day, there are about 60,000 youth incarcerated in the U.S. This report examines the more than half of these young people—two-thirds of whom are black or Latino—who have been committed to the custody of the state, on average for three to 12 months. Incarcerated youth overall tend to be several grade levels behind their peers, more likely to have an educational disability, and have been suspended multiple times and/or expelled from local schools.

“Measurement and accountability have been the hallmarks of the public education system,” said Kent McGuire, president and CEO of the Southern Education Foundation. “But those values haven’t been applied as rigorously to the education provided to kids who are incarcerated. Educationally, these kids have fallen way behind their peers. It’s hard to think of a group of youth more acutely in need of educational services.”

The report also offers a host of recommendations focused on ensuring all incarcerated youth have access to the same educational and vocational services as their peers in the community, collecting and reporting student outcome data for youth incarcerated, and improving continuity of educational services after a youth is released from incarceration.

“With the progress we’ve already seen from states lowering their juvenile incarceration rates, it’s important that attention shift to improving services to help ensure these kids are not just reentering society, but succeeding in it,” said Michael Lawlor, undersecretary of Criminal Justice Policy and Planning for Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and chair of the CSG Justice Center. “Every state can learn from this national report and the recommendations it provides.”

The report is a product of the National Reentry Resource Center, a project of the CSG Justice Center, and was made possible through funding from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, and developed in partnership with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency and Prevention.                                                                                                                                                     

It is going to take coordination between not only education institutions, but a strong social support system to get many of these children through school. This does not mean a large program directed from Washington. But, more resources at the local school level which allow discretion with accountability. For example, if I child is not coming to school because they have no shoes or winter coat, then the child gets new shoes and/or a coat. School breakfast and lunch programs must be supported and if necessary, expanded. Unfortunately, schools are now the early warning system for many families in crisis.

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