Improving Outcomes for Youth With Disabilities in Juvenile Corrections

Teens leaning up a against a wall

As recently noted by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, the fact that a student has been charged with or convicted of a crime does not diminish his or her substantive rights or the procedural safeguards and remedies provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). More than 60,000 youth are currently in juvenile correctional facilities, and a large portion of these youth are identified as having a disability, yet less than half report that they are receiving special education services. To protect the rights for these youth and improve their chances of leading positive and successful lives, it is the shared responsibility of States, State educational agencies (SEAs), public agencies, and correctional facilities to ensure full access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

This toolkit includes evidence- and research-based practices, tools, and resources that educators, families, facilities, and community agencies can use to better support and improve the long-term outcomes for youth with disabilities in juvenile correctional facilities. SEAs can begin by completing the State Correctional Education Self-Assessment (SCES) and reviewing the accompanying SCES Resources. The SCES will help SEAs identify systems-features and interagency collaboration that need to be in place in order to improve practices for youth with disabilities in correctional facilities.

Family involvement should be at the core of working with youth with disabilities in correctional facilities and is critical to improving outcomes. For more information about engaging families of youth with disabilities in correctional facilities, please visit the Family Involvement Resource Page.

Facility-Wide Practices

To promote the educational success of youth with disabilities in correctional facilities, facility-wide practices that cultivate a safe and supportive environment are needed. Facility-wide practices ensure a continuum of supports focused on prevention and consistent reinforcement of expectations across facility environments. Facility-wide practices include a Continuum of Academic and Behavioral Supports and Services, Trauma-Informed Care, and Restorative Justice. Learn More

Educational Practices

To improve educational outcomes for youth with disabilities in correctional facilities, youth must receive the educational, social-emotional, behavioral, and career-planning services they are eligible for under the IDEA. Organizing these practices in a tiered delivery system can assist in meeting the varied educational level and needs of the youth. Educational practices that can be leveraged to improve outcomes comprise Access to High-Quality Education, Individualized Instruction, and IDEA Compliance. Learn More

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Transition and Re-Entry Practices

To ensure that youth with disabilities exit correctional facilities ready to return to school, community, or employment settings, effective transition and reentry practices must be planned and coordinated. Practices include Transition Planning Beginning at Entry, Prioritizing Family Involvement, and Coordinating Aftercare Services. Learn More

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Community and Interagency Practices

Services for youth with disabilities should be coordinated across the variety of partners (e.g., schools, community agencies, and probation) they engage with while in and out of correctional facilities. These practices involve Interagency Agreements, Expeditious Records Transfer, and Staffing. Learn More