ERIC Identifier: ED340153
Publication Date: 1991-11-00
Author: Leone, Peter E. - And Others
Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children Reston VA.
Juvenile Corrections and the Exceptional Student. ERIC Digest
Approximately 84,000 juveniles are incarcerated in detention centers and
corrections facilities in the U.S., a figure that reflects a 14% increase from
1984 to 1989 (Nelson & Rutherford, 1989). It has been estimated that 28% of
these youths have been identified as having disabilites (Rutherford, Nelson,
& Wolford, 1989). There is some evidence that this estimate is low--studies
have found that even higher numbers were identified as disabled by their school
districts prior to their incarceration (Perryman, DiGangi, & Rutherford,
1989; Nelson & Rutherford, 1989). The most common disabling conditions among
incarcerated youth are mild to moderate mental retardation, learning
disabilities, and behavior disorders. There is no cause-and-effect relationship
between these conditions and illegal behavior, but some of the social
disadvantages and characteristics associated with them may lead to increased
likelihood of contact with the criminal justice system.
WHY ARE ADOLESCENTS WITH DISABILITIES DISPROPORTIONATELY INCARCERATED?
Poorly developed social skills and lack of ability to
comprehend questions and warnings increase the likelihood that disabled
offenders will be committed to correctional facilities, and may make these
youths vulnerable to inequitable treatment by the juvenile justice system. For
example, youths with mental retardation may:
Not understand the rights read to them.
Confess and say what they think another person wants to hear.
Have difficulty communicating with lawyers and court personnel.
Not be recognized as mentally retarded.
In addition, they are more likely to plead guilty, less likely to plea
bargain for reduced sentences, more often convicted, and less likely to have
their sentences appealed or placed on probation or parole. They serve longer
sentences than nonretarded persons incarcerated for the same crimes (Santamour,
1987). It has been recommended that, in addition to providing social skills
instruction, secondary school curricula for youth with disabilities include
law-related education that focuses on teaching adolescents their legal rights
and helping them develop a sense of community (Bannon & Leone, 1987).
ARE YOUTHS WITH DISABILITIES IN CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES
ENTITLED TO THE SUBSTANTIVE AND DUE PROCESS RIGHTS OF P.L. 94-142?
Yes. When P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of
1975, was passed, very few education programs operated by the juvenile justice
system assessed students who might have disabilities. Under P.L. 94-142, a youth
with a disability who is incarcerated has the same right to a free, appropriate
education as any other youth with a disability. State education agencies are
charged with supervising all other agencies involved in the education of
juvenile offenders who have disabilities (Forbes, 1991). Many correctional
education programs have had to develop systems for screening, identifying,
assessing, and instructing incarcerated youth with special educational needs.
Many of the provisions of the law have been difficult to implement in the
environment of the juvenile justice system.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF CORRECTIONAL PROGRAMS IN WHICH
EDUCATIONAL SERVICES ARE PROVIDED?
Detention centers confine juveniles waiting for
hearings or spending brief periods in custody. Other correctional institutions,
such as training or reform schools, hold youths for longer periods of time and
provide educational programs modeled after secondary school programs, often
including remedial and vocational courses. Frequently, these programs are
designed to assist students in passing the GED (General Education Development)
examinations. Camps, ranches, and specialized treatment facilities are generally
smaller and remotely located. They also confine youths for longer periods of
time and typically involve them in work related to the operation of the
facility. They often provide education through distributive education programs
in which students spend half of their time in school and the other half working.
Individualized educational curricula are often not provided (Leone, Rutherford, & Nelson, 1991).
The mobility of students in correctional institutions interferes with the
continuity of their educational programs. In special education, this mobility
can make providing due process protection and assessments very difficult.
Previous school records can be difficult to obtain because of inadequate links
with public school systems. At the longer-term camps and ranches, the facility's
small size and remote locations can hinder the provision of special education
services. Despite these problems, special education services are provided at
most juvenile detention centers and correctional institutions. However, many of
these programs do not adequately meet student needs (General Accounting Office,
Juvenile corrections facilities have traditionally been operated by the
criminal justice system, but in recent years, there has been a trend toward
increased use of private agencies to provide these services, particularly for
less serious offenders (U.S. Department of Justice, 1988).
WHO PROVIDES SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES TO INCARCERATED
Teachers who work with incarcerated youth are employed by a variety
of different agencies such as the public schools, social service agencies,
juvenile justice or corrections agencies, or private agencies that operate
juvenile correction facilities under contract. The administrative support and
resources available to them vary with the source of their funding and state
perceptions of the criminal justice system.
Many students in correctional programs experience positive relationships with
teachers and the educational process for the first time because of small classes
and the empathy shown by teachers (Egan, 1987). Several studies have shown that
students who developed strong relationships with program specialists were more
successful both academically and vocationally than those who did not develop
such relationships (Forbes, 1991).
WHAT PRACTICES ARE RECOMMENDED FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION OF
Practices that support meaningful special education programs in
juvenile correction facilities include functional assessment, curricula, and
instruction; transition services; and collaborative linkages.
Although standardized assessments are usually conducted when juvenile
offenders enter a correctional facility, they are rarely used for assigning
students to specific programs and have little value in identifying disabilities.
Functional assessments are more useful for these purposes. Functional
assessments involve continuous measurement that identifies discrepancies between
the student's educational achievement, social and vocational adjustment, and
ability to function independently in an educational program. The results are
used to make adjustments to the student's educational program.
A functional educational curriculum is one that meets a student's individual
needs. In addition to academic instruction, youthful offenders with disabilities
often need instruction in the social, daily living and vocational skills that
will enable them to interact appropriately with others, find and hold a job, and
live independently in their communities.
Positive, direct instructional strategies are important to functional
instruction. Although there must be realistic and sometimes negative
consequences for inappropriate, maladaptive, or deviant behavior, the primary
focus of instruction should be on reinforcing appropriate academic and social
behaviors. Applied behavior analysis is especially useful in intervention and
evaluation: It is a systematic, performance-based method of changing behavior,
in which measurable daily living, vocational and academic skills are specified
and the effects of instruction evaluated.
A successful transition to the community requires the coordinated efforts of
institutional staff, families, probation and aftercare professionals, and
educators. Many youths do not adapt well to changes in their environments or to
societal expectations for law-abiding behavior. Furthermore, many youths with
disabilities do not return to school after leaving correctional institutions.
One model to promote the transition of juvenile offenders into the community,
the Juvenile Corrections Interagency Transition Model (Webb, Maddox, &
Edgar, 1985), has been tested extensively in the State of Washington and in
other areas. The model includes strategies in four areas: awareness activities,
transfer of records, preplacement planning, and maintenance of placement and
communication. Studies indicate that the model has a positive impact on the
reintegration of adolescents.
One of the most important issues facing juvenile corrections today is the
need for collaborative linkages among courts, schools, correctional facilities,
and aftercare programs. Comprehensive and coordinated linkages often do not
exist and must be established so that:
Juvenile court judges make sentencing and placement decisions that
take the offender's special education needs into account.
Educational records are transferred with the youthful offender into
and out of correctional education.
Parole and other after-care programs are linked to both the
correctional education program and the public schools to provide
continuous and meaningful special education services.
Bannon, M. E. & Leone, P. E. (1987).
"Access, Equity, and Law-Related Education for the Handicapped." In R.B.
Rutherford, Jr., C. M. Nelson, & S. R. Forness (Eds.), Severe Behavior
Disorders of Children and Youth (pp. 152-160). Boston: College Hill/Little,
Egan, S. M. (1987). "Walter, Hector, Damion, and Thomas." In C. M. Nelson, R.
B. Rutherford, & B. I. Wolford, (Eds.), Special Education in the Criminal
Justice System. Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Forbes, M. A. (1991, March). "Special Education in Juvenile Correctional
Facilities: A Literature Review." In Journal of Correctional Education, 42, (1),
General Accounting Office (1985). Implementation of P.L. 94-142 as It Relates
to Handicapped Delinquents in the District of Columbia. Washington, DC: Author.
Leone, P. E., Rutherfod, R. B. & Nelson, C. M. (1991). Special Education
in Juvenile Corrections. Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children.
Nelson, C. M. & Rutherford, R. B. (1989, September). "Impact of the
Correctional Special Education Training (C/SET) Project on Correctional Special
Education." Paper presented at the CEC/CCBD National Topical Conference on
Behavior Disorders, Charlotte, NC.
Perryman, P., DiGangi, S. A., & Rutherford, R. B. (1989, November).
"Recidivism of Handicapped and Nonhandicapped Juvenile Offenders: An Exploratory
Analysis." Paper presented at the Learning Handicapped Offender Conference,
Rutherford, R. B., Nelson, C. M. & Wolford, B. I. (1989). "Special
Education in the Most Restrictive Environment: Correctional Special Education."
In Journal of Special Education, 19, 59-71.
Santamour, M. B. (1987). "The Mentally Retarded Offender." In C. M. Nelson,
R. B. Rutherford, & B. I. Wolford, (Eds.), Special Education in the Criminal
Justice System. Columbus, OH: Merrill.
U.S. Department of Justice (1988). Report to the Nation on Crime a nd
Justice: The Data. (2nd ed.) (Publication No. NCJ-87068). Washington, DC: U.S.
Government Printing Office.
Webb, S., Maddox, M. & Edgar, E. B. (1985). The Juvenile Corrections
Interagency Transition Model. Seattle: University of Washington, Experimental