Federal Guidance Aims To Improve the Quality of Education in Juvenile Justice Facilities

Posted December 15, 2014, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Richard Ross for Juvenile in Justice

A joint policy guidance package announced by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan aims to substantially improve the quality of education provided in juvenile justice facilities to better equip youth to return to their communities and succeed in life.  

In addition to being removed from their families and communities, youth in the juvenile justice system all too often receive sub-standard education. In their joint announcement, Attorney General Holder and Secretary Duncan say that “reducing youth contact with the juvenile justice system is the most crucial step to promoting positive outcomes for youth.” Providing high-quality correctional education for youth in the system is “one of the most powerful – and cost-effective – levers we have to ensure that youth are successful once released,” they said. 

The guidance package includes a Guiding Principles document which highlights five pillars essential for high quality schools in secure juvenile facilities; three issue-specific ‘Dear Colleague’ letters; and fact sheets aimed at helping stakeholders make effective use of the materials provided. An expert at the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS), a Foundation partner, called the new guidance the most comprehensive and thoughtful ever put out by the Department of Education on correctional education for youth and a terrific step by the federal government. While incarceration continues to be no place for kids, these new policy guidelines send a clear signal: students held in juvenile justice facilities deserve a high-quality education that will prepare them for success upon release.