Printer Friendly

Juvenile delinquency and special education laws: policy implementation issues and directions for future research.

The research literature has repeatedly demonstrated that there is an overrepresentation of juveniles with disabilities who are incarcerated in short-term and long-term correctional facilities. Despite these findings, special education programs in many juvenile correctional facilities have been shown to be lacking many of the necessary services mandated by federal law. The present article discusses the various legal challenges and difficulties faced by juvenile correctional education programs in providing special education services to incarcerated juveniles with disabilities, as well as the legislation and case law that currently exist to protect the right to special education services for all eligible juveniles. Related policy implementation issues and suggestions for future research in this area are also discussed.


In 1979, four years after the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (1975), the United States federal law that mandated that all students with a disability be provided a free and appropriate public education, a juvenile inmate incarcerated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against the state for failure to provide him and other eligible students with special education services (Green v. Johnson, 1981). The court decided that although the incarcerated status of an inmate may require adjustments in the special education programs available to him or her as compared to programs available to students who were not incarcerated, all students having a disability--regardless of their incarceration status--are entitled to special education services. This ruling was especially timely given that research over the past 30 years has repeatedly shown that a history of academic failure and educational disability are among the most prevalent characteristics of juveniles who reside in short-term detention settings or long-term correctional settings (Morris & Morris, 2006; Ollendick, 1979; Waldie & Spreen, 1993; Wang, Blomberg, & li, 2005; Zabel & Nigro, 1999).

In 1997, the Education for all Handicapped Children Act was reauthorized under the title, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and was again reauthorized in 2004 as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA). Each reauthorization further delineated the types of special education programs and services that must be available for all eligible students, regardless of their educational placement. Although this legislation and Green v. Johnson (1981) clearly indicate that these federal regulations must apply to both public education students and incarcerated youths, subsequent litigation has demonstrated that both detention and correctional facilities have been slow to respond (Handberry v. Thompson, 2000; State of Wisconsin v. Trent, 1997). The present paper discusses the prevalence of disability in incarcerated youths, federal mandates and case law regarding the rights of incarcerated juveniles to special education services, and policy implementation issues for juvenile correctional education. Suggestions for future research in this area are also discussed.

Prevalence of Incarcerated Youth Having a Disability

The research literature suggests that there is an overrepresentation of youths with disabilities within juvenile correctional facilities, with prevalence values ranging from 20% to 100% (Bullis & Yovanoff, 2005; Bullock & McArthur, 1994; Morgan, 1979; Morris & Morris, 2006). The wide spread in percentage values may be due to a variety of factors, such as the definition of disability and/or classification system used in a particular study (e.g., use of state versus federal definitions), the specific assessment instrument(s) and evaluation procedure used by diagnosticians, and the methodology used by researchers in gathering the data (Bullock & McArthur, 1994; Morgan, 1979; Rutherford, Nelson, & Wolford, 1985; Zabel & Nigro, 1999).

In 2000, a national survey was conducted across states by the Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice and the National Center on Education Disability to determine the number of students in juvenile correctional and detention facilities who were eligible for special education services under IDEA. The results showed that prevalence values varied widely between states, with values ranging from as low as 9.1% to 77.5%, with a median prevalence of 33.4% (Quinn, Rutherford, Leone, Osher, & Poirier, 2005). In terms of specific disabilities, the results also revealed that within the median prevalence value of 33.4%, 47.7% of the juveniles had an emotional disturbance, 38.6% a specific learning disability, 9.7% mental retardation, 2.9% were listed as other health impairment, and 0.8% were identified as having multiple disabilities. As can be seen from Table 1, these percentages differ markedly from those for public school students having a disability during the equivalent 2000-01 school year. For example, with respect to emotional disability, the public school population had a prevalence percentage of 8.2%, whereas school settings in correctional facilities were at 47.7% (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). Appreciable differences were also found for specific learning disability and other health impairment. In fact, the only prevalence value that was comparable in both correctional and public school settings was for the disability of mental retardation.

This high percentage of youths in juvenile correctional facilities who are classified as disabled under IDEIA (2004) guidelines presents a unique set of challenges to educational programs in correctional settings. In addition to the large number of juveniles in need of special education services, such individuals are characteristically very different from those receiving special education services in other public agency school settings. For example, the vast majority of these youths are diagnosed as having an emotional disturbance. In addition, it is frequently reported that (1) these youths often move between facilities; (2) the school records of incarcerated youths are difficult to obtain from their regular public school to ensure continuity of needed services and IEP implementation; (3) there is little family involvement in the educational experiences of these youths; and, (4) some of the disciplinary practices that are used with incarcerated youths (e.g. solitary confinement) could negatively affect their educational progress (e.g., Leone, Price, & Vitolo, 1986; Robinson, & Rapport; Warboys & Shauffer, 1986). Despite these challenges to educational programs in correctional settings, federal and state laws require short-term detention and long-term correctional facilities to provide special education services to all incarcerated youths.

Federal Mandates Under IDEA1 and Related Policy Implementation Issues

Before 1975, the special education needs of children and adolescents with disabilities were not, in general, being met within the U.S. public school system, with more than 50% of these students failing to receive the services that would have allowed them the same educational opportunities as those students in regular education classrooms (20 U.S.C. [section] 1400; Murdick, Gartin, & Crabtree, 2007). Similarly, the education needs of juveniles placed in short-term detention centers or long-term correctional facilities were not being met. In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142) was passed by the U.S. Congress to improve the educational outcomes for these youths. This act mandated that all states receiving federal support for the education of students provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to all eligible youths having a disability until their 22nd birthday. IDEA and IDEIA (1) have further delineated the types of special education services to which all eligible students are entitled. These subsequent reauthorizations have helped shift the original focus of ensuring that all children and adolescents having a disability receive special education services to ensuring that all students receive quality special education services. Moreover, PL 94-142 and IDEA, as well as past litigation involving incarcerated youths and other federal mandates, have further clarified that the guarantee of a FAPE applies to all eligible youths, independent of educational setting (Leone et al, 1986).

In this regard, the earlier mentioned landmark case of Green v. Johnson (1981) secured the right to a FAPE for all incarcerated juveniles. This assurance of the right to a FAPE was also confirmed in other cases involving incarcerated juveniles (e.g., Andre H. v. Sobol, 1991; Handberry v. Thompson, 2000, 2002, 2006; State of Wisconsin v. Trent, 1997), ensuring that these facilities must follow federal timelines for assessment and implementation of special education services even when the juvenile is in temporary detention (California Department of Youth Authority, 1986). For example, the case of Andre H. v. Sobol (1991) specifically addressed the issue of special education services in short-term juvenile detention centers. The plaintiffs argued that a New York detention center failed to provide appropriate special education services, including receipt of the student's prior school records, ChildFind information, IEP development and implementation, and multidisciplinary meetings. A settlement required that the detention center implement all provisions of IDEA. Pre-trial detainees were also afforded the right to educational services in the case of Donnell C. v. Illinois State Board of Education, 1993, where it was found that the state's acceptance of federal funds to support educational programs in correctional facilities extended the requirements of IDEA and other special education-related federal laws to pretrial detainees.

Students with disabilities are also eligible for accommodations in the educational services that they receive in accordance with two additional federal statutes, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA; 1990). While these statutes were not originally designed directly for educational purposes, both indicate that individuals with disabilities cannot be denied access or services from public agencies, such as the public school setting or state juvenile correctional facility. Section 504 warrants civil rights for all individuals with disabilities, stating that no qualified individual, regardless of age or type of disability, can be subjected to discrimination or be excluded from participation in (or be denied the benefits of) any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance [29 U.S.C. [section] 794(a)]. Juvenile correctional facilities and their educational programs receive federal funding and, therefore, fall under Section 504 regulations (Rutherford, Griller-Clark, & Anderson, 2001). The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), however, is much broader in its scope, indicating that a disabled individual cannot be denied services from any agency based solely on his or her disability, regardless of whether the agency receives federal funding (Drakeford, Leone, Hamlett, & Vickery, 2005). The Supreme Court has affirmed the application of the ADA in correctional facilities in the case of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections v.Yeskey (1998), stating that the ADA applies to programs and services available to prisoners. These mandates have also served as support in plaintiff's claims that focus on inadequate special education services provided by juvenile correctional facilities (Alexander S. v. Boyd, 1995; Smith v. Wheaton, 1998). Consistent with the mandates under Section 504 and the ADA, the following sections present IDEA (1997, 2004) mandates and the policy implementation issues for juveniles in correctional facilities.

Identification and Comprehensive Evaluation

The IDEA (2004) states that all children in need of special education and related services must be identified, located, and evaluated [34 CFR [section] 300.125(a)(1)(i)]. For example, any child or adolescent who is suspected of having a learning disability must be referred for an evaluation to determine if he or she is eligible for special education services and evaluated within "a reasonable period of time" [34 CFR [section] 300.343(b)(1)]. The IDEA further states that this requirement applies to "highly mobile children with disabilities" [34 CFR [section] 300.125(a)(2)(i)], a position which is directly applicable to incarcerated students, including those in short-term detention facilities. IDEA also requires that a comprehensive and individual evaluation be conducted for each child being considered for special education and related services. This evaluation must be administered in a child's native language or other familiar mode of communication, using technically sound material, with the evaluation materials and methods individually tailored to assess the specific educational needs of the child (34 CFR [section] 300.532). This evaluation must be conducted both to determine if the child or adolescent can be diagnosed as one who has a disability as well as to determine the specific educational needs of the student [34 CFR [section] 300.352).

Policy Implementation Issues. The process of identifying, locating, and evaluating children and adolescents for the presence/absence of a disability is more difficult in correctional than public school settings (Rutherford et al, 2001), because parental permission is often difficult to obtain for incarcerated youths. Moreover, public schools are often reluctant or slow to release academic records for students who are juvenile delinquents. Moreover, the quick progression of many adjudicated youths through the juvenile justice system also makes it difficult for past academic records to be obtained in a timely manner and for additional disability evaluations to occur, allowing many disabled youths to be unidentified. Many facilities, particularly short-term detention centers, must initially rely only on a juvenile's self-report of past special education services (Robinson & Rapport, 1999). Despite this difficulty, courts have recognized that incarcerated youths' entitlement to these services is not trumped by incarceration. In this regard, the U.S. District Court of South Carolina in the case of Alexander S. v. Boyd (1995) found that state correctional facilities failed to adequately identify, locate, and evaluate juveniles who were in need of special education services. However, the correctional facilities argued that the identified educational inadequacies in their system were due, in part, to schools being reluctant to release records because of FERPA requirements that protected the confidentiality of theses students without a signed release by a parent or guardian. The court recognized the difficulty in locating the parents of many incarcerated juveniles and stated that FERPA does not require parental and/or juvenile consent for the local school district to send school records to a correctional facility. Moreover, in the case of Smith v. Wheaton (1998) the court agreed that IDEA requirements for adequate identification and evaluation of disabled students also apply in correctional facilities. The plaintiffs alleged that the Connecticut juvenile correctional facility failed, among other things, to meet minimum timelines for evaluation of students. The defendants, on the other hand, argued that FERPA protected the confidentiality of a student's records, making them difficult to obtain, but the court rejected this assertion and determined that local school districts cannot withhold a student's educational records from the state even if the parents refuse to consent to the disclosure.

Developing an Individualized Education Program

Under IDEA (2004), all eligible students are entitled to an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP defines the student's current academic functioning as well as his or her immediate and long-term educational goals. This individualized program also describes related and specific services necessary for the student to achieve these goals, as well as the manner in which such services will be provided (Rutherford et al, 2001). The IEP is an integral component in providing quality special education services to help a student achieve his or her maximum learning potential, and, as the term implies, should be individually tailored for each student. However, in correctional facilities Warboys and Shauffer (1986) reported that many juveniles received generic IEPs that lacked specificity, identifying only generic goals and objectives that corresponded to those services currently available at the facility rather than being tailored to the student's specific educational needs. They also found in some instances that no IEP was developed or followed for particular students (Warboys & Shauffer, 1986).

Policy Implementation Issues. In many short-term detention facilities IEP development and implementation has been shown to be difficult due to a juvenile's short stay and the lack of certified special education teachers at the facility who have the background and training to adequately implement each juvenile's IEP (Robinson & Rapport, 1999). In Alexander S. v. Boyd (1995), these latter difficulties were recognized and the court ordered that facilities do not need to draft a new IEP for a student's stay in a short-term facility. However, the court mandated that a juvenile facility should implement a youth's prior school's IEP as closely as possible, and that a new IEP must be developed if the student is transferred to a long-term facility. The difficulties associated with the transfer of school records from public schools to correctional facilities complicates the implementation of a student's prior IEP since the juvenile may arrive at the short-term facility without their previous IEP. This means that in a relatively short period a new psychoeducational evaluation might have to be conducted and an IEP written, which may not be consistent with the student's original IEP (Warboys & Shauffer, 1986).

The failure to develop and/or implement a youth's IEP in juvenile correctional facilities has also come under scrutiny in various state courts. For example, in one case involving the Hot Springs, Arkansas school district (Hot Springs School District (1999) an Arkansas detention center was ordered to provide compensatory education to an incarcerated juvenile with a behavioral disability because the district (1) failed to convene an IEP meeting upon the student's transfer to the detention center, (2) the juvenile's current IEP was not implemented in the detention center, (3) the necessary related services were not provided to the juvenile, and (4) the detention center failed to solicit sufficient information to develop a new IEP. In regard to a complaint filed by the mother of a juvenile incarcerated in a California juvenile court center, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Western Division also determined that correctional centers must hold a timely IEP meeting upon a juvenile's entrance into the facility, and individualized services must be provided (Riverside County, CA, Office of Education, 2002). In this case a student entered the juvenile court center in March of 2001, but an IEP team meeting was not held until May 2001, and no individualized services were decided upon or provide. A delay in all specialized services then continued when the juvenile was transferred to another facility.

Although legal rulings have determined that juveniles in need of special education services must have an IEP developed and appropriately implemented, the OCR rejected another mother's complaint that her son was denied services required by his IEP. In this case, he was provided materials in the general classroom, but at times he was not provided books, pencils, paper, or a tutor to help him with his assignments (Granite (UT) School District, 2004). Although the OCR agreed that the district is required to continue services required by a juvenile's IEP during periods of incarceration, the district was not responsible for providing books, pencils, paper, or a tutor to the student when he was in his cell because the student's IEP did not specify these services.

In comparison to public educational settings, juvenile correctional facilities face greater challenges than public educational settings in maintaining safety and security within the institution, and the courts have recognized this, acknowledging that a juvenile's IEP may need to be modified not necessarily to help him or her achieve maximum benefit from special education services but rather in the interest of discipline and safety within a correctional facility. For example, in the case of In re Marc A. (1994), a student identified with both emotional disturbance and learning disabilities was incarcerated for manslaughter, and during periods of his sentence he was required to serve in a maximum security unit in a New Hampshire prison. His IEP indicated that he should receive 5.25 hours of instruction per day, but while he was in the maximum security unit he received only one hour of direct instruction per week. A hearing officer agreed with the plaintiff that the adolescent should be permitted to either participate in the general education building or that an "approved" program should be implemented within the maximum security unit. On appeal, however, the district court disagreed with the plaintiff's claim and determined that the student's right to a FAPE must be balanced against a state interest of discipline and safety in the prison and, therefore, decided that the student's current IEP requiring 5.25 hours of instruction would jeopardize these latter interests (New Hampshire Department of Education v. City of Manchester, NH School District, 1996).

Related Services

The IDEA (2004) guarantees that a child or adolescent qualifying under IDEA must receive necessary "related services"--which are to be identified in their IEP--to help them achieve maximum benefit from their special education services. These related services may include speech-language pathology and audiology services, psychological and other counseling services, and physical or occupational therapy (34 CFR [section] 300.24).

Policy Implementation Issues. This legal mandate may be more difficult to implement in correctional facilities versus typical public educational settings. The reason centers on security matters in correctional facilities versus public school settings, the lack of sufficient funding for education services in correctional facilities, and a shortage of specialists such as occupational or speech therapists in correctional centers (Robinson & Rapport, 1999; Warboys & Shauffer, 1986).

Least Restrictive Environment

The IDEA (2004) provides that students with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE), meaning that to the maximum extent possible, students with disabilities should be educated with nondisabled students in a general education classroom setting (34 CFR [section] 300.550), and that these students may not be removed from the general education classroom solely because of needed modifications in the general curriculum [34 CFR [section] 300.552(d)(e)]. The IDEA also states that when selecting the LRE for a student, consideration must be given to any potential harmful effects on the student or the quality of services that he or she needs.

Policy Implementation Issues. This LRE requirement is problematic in short-term or long-term correctional facilities, given that the conditions under which a juvenile is incarcerated already prevent his or her receiving an education with nondisabled students in a general education classroom. In addition, a secure environment is needed to protect the safety of personnel and other juveniles present in the correctional facility, requiring educators and personnel to balance safety and the LRE requirement (Leone & Meisel, 1997). In this regard, the earlier described case of New Hampshire Department of Education v. City of Manchester, NH School District (1996), the court affirmed that an incarcerated student's right to a FAPE must be balanced against the interests of discipline and safety.

Disciplinary Procedures

IDEA (2004) also provides guidelines for discipline procedures for students with disabilities. Regulations assert that in an academic year a disabled student having a disability can be suspended or expelled in the same manner as any nondisabled student for up to 10 days; however, after 10 days of suspension or expulsion, the school must provide special education services and a "manifestation determination review" must be conducted to determine if the behavior(s) associated with the suspension or expulsion was a result of the student's disability. If it is determined that a relationship exists between the behavior(s) and the disability, then the student may not be expelled or suspended. In addition, the student may not be suspended if the public agency (in this case the school or correctional facility) failed to implement the student's IEP (34 CFR [section] 300.519). If no relationship is found to exist or if the behavior(s) was severe enough (e.g., drug possession, possession of a weapon, or the student afflicted severe bodily injury on another individual), the student may be expelled for up to 45 school days, but the agency (i.e., public school) must still provide a FAPE to the student. Although IDEA (1990, 1997) provided guidelines to protect students having a disability from prolonged expulsion from school, IDEA (2004) gave schools the ability for stricter discipline. For example, IDEA (1990, 1997) allowed that a student may be expelled for up to 45 days, while IDEA (2004) allows a student to be suspended for up to 45 school days, therefore increasing the amount of time that a student may be expelled.

Policy Implementation Issues. Compliance with discipline regulations under IDEA (2004) may be more challenging in juvenile correctional educational settings than other public agency educational settings because discipline is often a matter of safety and security (Leone, 1994). The type of punishment generally used to maintain security and the safety of all in the correctional setting is confinement of defiant juveniles, which may restrict a student's access to daily activities, including educational services. However, given the decision in New Hampshire Department of Education v. City of Manchester, NH School District (1996), correctional facilities may make appropriate modifications to a juvenile's IEP to maintain security and safety in the juvenile's environment.

Transition Services

Students who qualify for special education services under IDEA (2004) are entitled to a transition plan in their IEP, which is designed to aid the student's movement from the school setting to post-school activities, independent living, employment, and/or postsecondary education settings. The transition plan is to be developed based on a student's individual needs and includes instruction, related services, and community experiences (34 CFR [section] 300.29).

Policy Implementation Issues. This also presents a challenge to correctional facilities in comparison to public schools, because rather than, for example, preparing students for a postsecondary education or employment setting, correctional facilities often need to prepare incarcerated juveniles for return to (and survival in) their respective community settings, and possibly prepare them to return to their respective public education setting (e.g., Baltodano, Mathur, & Rutherford, 2005; Ochoa & Eckes, 2005). For a successful transition, it may also be necessary for educators and other support staff in correctional settings to focus on those identifying variables that contributed to a juvenile's delinquency and to develop a plan regarding how he or she can prevent these variables from contributing to future delinquent acts.

Although IDEA (2004) mandates transition services for eligible students, such services do not need to be provided to these youths who have been convicted as adults and are incarcerated in adult prisons [20 U.S.C. [section] 1414(d)(6)(A)]. In addition, these services do not need to be furnished to those juveniles who may be released after their IDEA eligibility ends (i.e., after they reach their 22nd birthday).

Due Process and Procedural Safeguards

Procedural and due process protections are provided under IDEA (2004), as well as under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and ADA. These safeguards help to ensure that parents or guardians have an opportunity to be involved in the educational decisions regarding their student or adolescent, the development of his or her IEP and related academic services, as well as to ensure that parents are notified and/or give consent when a change of placement occurs for a student. Safeguards also help ensure a timely assessment of the student, and provide temporal guidelines for the identification, development, evaluation, and progress made of a student's IEP [34 CFR [section] 300.500-517).

Policy Implementation Issues. Compliance with due process and procedural safeguards may be more difficult in correctional settings because of the difficulty often experienced in locating the juvenile's parent or guardian. Temporal guidelines may also be more difficult to observe in the correctional setting because of the transient nature of juveniles.

The right to due process has also been protected in past litigation. For example, in Paul Y. by Kathy Y. v. Singletary (1997), a 16-year-old student was sent to a state correctional facility and denied a due process hearing after alleging that he had not received any educational services during his first stay at a correctional facility. After being transferred to a second correctional facility, an IEP and transition plan were designed for him without the participation of his parents or attorney. The boy's parents filed an action in federal court requesting a due process hearing, and the court agreed that the juvenile was entitled to a due process hearing and ordered that the state refrain from modifying transition plans without providing prior notification to the parents. In the case of Morgan v. Chris L. by Mike L. (1997) it was also decided that students must be placed in juvenile corrections educational settings following the procedural safeguards described under IDEA. The court stated that upon a change in placement the student was also entitled to a multidisciplinary team meeting and the parents must receive notice about the meeting.

Although previous litigation has determined that juvenile correctional facilities follow procedural safeguards and due process, a Texas court determined that the change of placement and "stay-up" provision of IDEA (2004)--which requires that a student remain in his current education placement until an IDEA hearing can be conducted--does not apply in certain situations (In the matter of P.E.C., 2006). In this case, a juvenile with multiple disabilities was on probation for multiple crimes and had been enrolled and receiving special education services in a charter school. Upon breaking his probation, the juvenile was transferred to a Texas juvenile facility. The juvenile claimed that his delinquent behavior was a manifestation of his disability and argued that the state violated IDEA's change of placement and "stay-put" provision when committing him to a juvenile correctional facility. The court rejected the juvenile's claims and asserted that in addition to failing to provide evidence that his delinquent behavior was related to his disability, the change of placement and "stay put" provisions of IDEA does not apply when transferring a juvenile on the basis of criminal behavior.

Conclusions and Directions for Future Research

The research literature has shown that there is an overrepresentation of juvenile offenders with disabilities in short-term and long-term correctional facilities--particularly those juveniles identified as having an emotional disturbance (e.g., Morris & Morris, 2006). Although, state and federal courts have ruled that federal legislation (such as IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the ADA) applies directly to incarcerated juveniles, various legal cases have shown that some short-term and long-term juvenile correctional facilities have been slow to respond to these federal laws.

Consequently, many juveniles with disabilities have not been receiving the special education services to which they are entitled. There are many reasons for this state of affairs. First, many juvenile correctional facilities may lack sufficient personnel to provide appropriate psychological and psychoeducational education services. Second, such facilities may lack certified special education teachers to provide quality educational services, and/or may be understaffed in terms of offering related educational services such as occupational and speech therapy. Third, juvenile correctional facilities often face barriers and challenges that public school agencies do not face in the implementation of special education services; however, based on various legal decisions, these challenges do not negate a correctional facility's obligation to provide all necessary educational services to juveniles. In this regard, legal decisions have affirmed the following with respect to the provision of special education services to juveniles: (1) all students, independent of their incarceration status, are entitled to a free and appropriate public education; (2) students must be identified and provided a comprehensive evaluation and special education services; (3) students who are eligible for special education must have an IEP developed and/or implemented; and, (4) all students who are eligible for special education services are entitled to due process and procedural safeguards.

The scholarly literature has provided some guidance for implementing quality special education services in juvenile correctional facilities. For example, specific procedures have been discussed in the literature for more than two decades regarding conducting functional curriculum-based assessments to identify the needs of juveniles, providing transition services, building more open communication lines with public schools to facilitate the transfer of school records, and providing specialized training for corrections educators and support staff (e.g. Meisel, Henderson, Cohen, & Leone, 1998; Ochoa & Eckes, 2005; Rutherford et al, 1985). Unfortunately, little, if any, empirical research has been published which has evaluated the success of the implementation of these procedures. In this regard, research needs to be conducted on evidence-based practices in educating juveniles in correctional settings in order to form an empirical basis for similar practices that are emerging in the public schools (see, for example, Morris & Mather, 2008). In addition, research is needed on the effectiveness of different types of classroom instruction methods, such as using individualized computer instruction, peer mentoring, and using guards as teacher aides and/or tutors. Another area for research involves comparing the relative effectiveness of educating students with disabilities in correctional settings versus educating students with similar disabilities and at similar grade levels in public school settings. In each area of possible research, the current empirical literature is sparse and that which does exist includes small sample sizes, high participant dropout rates, inadequate or no control groups, and/or are non-data based (descriptive) case studies. In addition, because mainstreaming is the common practice in correctional education programs (Foley & Gao, 2002), the experimental groups in many studies combine youths with disabilities with those who are failing academically but who do not have a disability. Research is also needed that not only investigates the relative effectiveness of particular educational curricula, but also the effectiveness of one type of curriculum or intervention program compared to another. For example, a few studies have compared a short-term reading program to a control group (e.g. Drakeford, 2002; Malmgren & Leone, 2000; Simpson, Swanson, & Kunkel; 1992), but few studies have compared a short-term reading program to both a life skills program and, for example, an attention placebo or waitlist control group.

Given the highly transient nature of adjudicated youths, another area of correctional educational programming needing study is the effectiveness of short-term academic programs versus long-term programs with respect to meeting particular IEP objectives. In this regard, correctional education settings, particularly short-term facilities, may benefit from knowing which type of disability is more likely to recidivate. This information, for example, could then be used to modify a youth's IEP and/or treatment goals immediately upon him or her entering the correctional facility. Moreover, given the high percentage of incarcerated students identified as having an emotional disturbance, research is also needed that addresses which type(s) of education program is effective for which age group and gender of students, with which type of IDEA disability, who committed which type of crimes, and having which level of academic achievement level.

Given past litigation regarding special education services in correctional settings, as well as state and federal legislation and research regarding special education services in these facilities, it appears that both short-term and long-term correctional facilities are now focusing on the development and implementation of corrections-based special education services. Advocates for incarcerated and detained students--including educators, practitioners, parents, legal scholars, and researchers--have been quite successful over the past 5--10 years in raising the public's awareness of the lack of special educations services for many youths in juvenile correctional facilities. The next 5--10 years now need to emphasize the development and implementation of quality special education services for these youths.

Author Note

Preparation of this article was supported by the University of Arizona's "Arizona Children's Research and Policy Studies Project."


Alexander S. v. Boyd, 22 IDELR 139 (D.S.C. 1995).

Americans With Disabilities Act, (1990). Public Law No. 101-336, 42 U.S.C. [section] 12101-12213.

Andre v. Sobol, No. 84-3114 (S.D.N.Y. 1991).

Baltodano, H.M., Mathur, S.R., & Rutherford, R.B. (2005). Transition of incarcerated youth with disabilities across systems and into adulthood. Exceptionality, 13, 103-124.

Bullis, M., & Yovanoff, P. (2005). More alike than different? Comparison of formerly incarcerated youth with and without disabilities. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 14, 127-139.

Bullock, L.M., & McArthur, P. (1994). Correctional special education: Disability prevalence estimates and teacher preparation programs. Education and Treatment of Children, 17, 347-355.

California Department of Youth Authority, EHLR 352:307 (OCR 1986).

Donnell C. v. Illinois State Board of Education, 20 IDELR 514 (N.D. Ill. 1993).

Drakeford, W. (2002). The impact of an intensive program to increase the literacy skills of youth confined to juvenile corrections. Journal of Correctional Education, 53, 139-144.

Drakeford, W., Leone, P.E., Hamlett, J., & Vickery, K. (2005). An examination of disability issues in introductory juvenile and criminal justice textbooks. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 16, 280-291.

Education for All Handicapped Children Act, (1975). Public Law No. 94-142, 20, U.S.C. [section] 1400.

Feld, B.C. (2004). Juvenile transfer. Criminology and Public Policy, 3, 599-603.

Foley, R.M., & Gao, J. (2002). Correctional education program serving incarcerated juveniles: A status report. Journal of Correctional Education, 53, 131-138.

Granite (UT) School District, 45 IDELR 65 (O.C.R. Western Division, Denver, 2004).

Green v. Johnson, 3 EHLR 552:550 (D.M.A. 1981).

Handberry v. Thompson, 32 IDELR 60 (S.D.N.Y. 2000).

Handberry v. Thompson, 37 IDELR 184 (S.D.N.Y. 2002).

Handberry v. Thompson, 45 IDELR 2 (S.D.N.Y. 2006).

Hot Springs School District, 31 IDELR 250. (1999).

In re Marc, 21 IDELR 341 (N.H. 1994).

In the matter of P.E.C., 46 IDELR 47 (TX. Ct. App. 2006).

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (1990). Public Law No. 101-476, 20 U.S.C. [section]1400.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (1997). Public Law No. 105-17, 20, U.S.C. [section]1400.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, (2005). P.L. 108-446, [section] 601, 118 Stat. 2647.

Leone, P.E. (1994). Education services for youth with disabilities in a state-operated juvenile correctional system: Case study and analysis. Journal of Special Education, 28, 43-58.

Leone, P.E., & Meisel, S. (1997). Improving education services for students in detention and confinement facilities. Children's Legal Rights Journal, 17, 1-12.

Leone, P.E., Price, T., & Vitolo, R.K. (1986). Appropriate education for all incarcerated youth: Meeting the spirit of P.L. 94-142 in youth detention facilities. Remedial and Special Education, 7, 9-14.

Malgrem, K., & Leone, P.E. (2000). Effects of a short-term auxiliary reading program on the reading skills of incarcerated youth. Education and Treatment of Children, 23, 239-247.

Meisel, S., Henderson, K., Cohen, M., & Leone, P. (1998). Collaborate to education: Special education in juvenile correctional facilities. In Building Collaboration between Education and Treatment for At-Risk and Delinquent Youth (pp. 59-72). Eastern KY University, Richmond: National Juvenile Detention Association.

Morgan, D.I. (1979). Prevalence and types of handicapping conditions found in juvenile correctional institutions: A national survey. Journal of Special Education, 13, 283-295.

Morgan v. Chris L. by Mike L., 25 IDELR 227 (6th Cir. 1997).

Morris, K.A., & Morris, R.J. (2006). Disability and juvenile delinquency: Issues and trends. Disability and Society, 21, 613-627.

Morris, R.J., & Mather, N., (2008). Evidence-based interventions for students having learning and behavioral challenges. New York: LEA Taylor & Francis.

New Hampshire Department of Education v. City of Manchester, NH School District, 23 IDELR 1057 (D.N.H. 1996).

Ochoa, T.A., & Eckes, S.E. (2005). Urban youth in correctional facilities: Segregation based on disability and race. Education and Urban Society, 38, 21-34.

Ollendick, T.H. (1979). Discrepancies between verbal and performance IQs and subtest scatter on the WISC-R for juvenile delinquents. Psychological Reports, 45, 563-568.

Paul Y. by Kathy Y. v. Singletary, 27 IDELR 1 (S.D. Fla. 1997).

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections v. Yeskey, 524 U.S. 206 (1998).

Quinn, M.M., Rutherford, R.B., Leone, P.E. Osher, D.M., & Poirier, J.M. (2005). Youth with disabilities in juvenile corrections: A national survey. Exceptional children, 71, 339-345.

Riverside County, CA, Office of Educ., 37 IDELR 288. (O.C.R., Western Division, San Francisco, CA, 2002).

Redding, R.E. (1999). Examining legal issues: Juvenile offenders in criminal court and adult prison. Corrections Today, 61, 92-95.

Robinson, T.R., & Rapport, M.K. (1999). Providing special education in the juvenile justice system. Remedial and Special Education, 20, 19-26.

Rutherford Jr., R.B., Griller-Clark, H.M., & Anderson, C.W. (2001). Treating offenders with disabilities. In Ashford, J.B., Sales, B.D., & Reid, W.H. (Eds.), Treating adult and juvenile offenders with special needs (pp. 220-245). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Rutherford, R.B., Nelson, C.M., & Wolford, B.I. (1985). Special education in the most restrictive environment: Correctional/special education. Journal of Special Education, 19, 59-71.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, (1977). 34 C.F.R. [section] 104.35(b).

Simpson, S.B., Swanson, J.M., & Kunkel, K. (1992). The impact of an intensive multisensory reading program on a population of learning-disabled delinquents. Annals of Dyslexia, 42, 54-66.

Smith v. Wheaton, 29 IDELR 200 (D.C.T. 1998).

State of Wisconsin v. Trent N., 26 IDELR 434 (Wis. Ct. App. 1997).

U.S. Department of Education (1994). Mini-Digest of Education Statistics, 1994. Washington, DC; National Center for Education Statistics.

U.S. Department of Education. (2002). Twenty-fourth annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author.

U.S. Department of Education. (2003). Twenty-fifth annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author.

Waldie, K., & Spreen, O. (1993). The relationship between learning disabilities and persisting delinquency. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 26, 417-423.

Wang, X., Blomberg, T.G., & Li, S.D. (2005). Comparison of the educational deficiencies of delinquent and nondelinquent students. Evaluation Review, 29, 291-312.

Warboys. L.M., & Shauffer, C.B. (1986). Legal issues in providing special educational services to handicapped inmates. Remedial and Special Education, 7, 34-40.

Zabel, R.H., & Nigro, F.A. (1999). Juvenile offenders with behavior disorders, learning disabilities, and no disabilities: Self-reports of personal, family, and school characteristics. Behavioral Disorders, 25, 22-40.


(1.) Consistent with recent trends in the literature, the abbreviations "IDEA" and "IDEIA" will be subsumed under the abbreviation "IDEA." When necessary, each will be differentiated by the year that each was enacted, i.e., IDEA (1997) and IDEA (2004).

Biographical Sketches

RICHARD J. MORRIS, Ph.D. is the David and Minnie Meyerson Distinguished Professor of Disability and Rehabilitation and Professor of School Psychology in the Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and School Psychology at the University Arizona. His research interests focus on juvenile delinquency and disability.

KRISTIN C. THOMPSON is a fourth year Ph.D. student in the school psychology program at the University of Arizona. Her research interests focus on the relationship between juvenile delinquency and disability as well as on gifted education. She is currently working on several research projects within the juvenile corrections system.
Table 1. Classification of disability as a percentage of all youth
served under IDEA

 U.S. Public U.S. Correctional
IDEA Disability Category Schools (1) Schools (2)

All Identified Youth 11.5 33.4

Emotional Disturbance 8.2 47.7
Specific Learning Disability 50.0 38.6
Mental Retardation 10.6 9.7
Other Health Impairment 5.1 2.9
Multiple Disability 2.1 0.8
Speech Language Impairment 18.9 NA

(1) Source: U.S. Department of Education (2002)

(2) Source: Quinn et al (2005)
COPYRIGHT 2008 Correctional Educational Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Morris, Richard J.; Thompson, Kristin C.
Publication:Journal of Correctional Education
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2008
Previous Article:A comparison between juvenile delinquents' and teachers' opinions on metalinguistic and metacognitive skills.
Next Article:Letter from CEA and the journal editor.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters