In Focus: Key Youth Legislation

Nov 12, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Access to Education and the Workforce for Formerly Incarcerated Youth

By Andrew Mulinge and Andrea Barnes

For youth who have been incarcerated, returning to the community is a difficult process. Youth must adjust to being back at home with family and friends while attempting to re-enter school or find employment. Unfortunately, many young people encounter major roadblocks along the way, such as lost school credits or inability to find a job. For youth who are also parenting, there is the added stress of being providing for a child. These youth need a range of comprehensive supports and services to successfully transition after incarceration and progress into adulthood.

Across the country, communities are utilizing federal funds through the Second Chance Act to deliver effective re-entry programs for youth. Passed in 2008, the Second Chance Act allocates federal grants to state and local agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide support strategies and services that improve outcomes for people returning from prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities. The Second Chance Reauthorization Act (S. 1690), which is under consideration in Congress, would extend the grants for another five years, making much-needed resources available to communities.

Because juvenile justice systems are regionally operated, there are vast differences in data collection methods; as a result, there is no national data on recidivism rates. However, there is available information about the nature of juvenile offenses that sheds light on the needs of these youth. Of the 70,792 juveniles incarcerated in 2010, 11,604 (16 percent) were incarcerated on the basis of technical violations, such as not fulfilling the requirements of their probation or parole, as opposed to committing another crime. Many youth are also incarcerated for non-violent offenses. More than 3,000 juveniles are detained for “status” offenses, which is defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as “behaviors that are not law violations for adults, such as running away, truancy, and incurability.”

Programs that provide rehabilitative support for previously delinquent youth are proven to help reduce rates of recidivism. Between 2007 and 2010, South Carolina experienced a 17.9 percent decrease in its overall recidivism rate for all individuals incarcerated.  Programs funded by the Second Chance Act contributed to its decrease.

We know a lot about which have been successful. As many as 75 percent of incarcerated youth have mental health disorders and about 20 percent have a severe disorder. Thus, any program aimed at providing services to returning youth must address their psycho-social needs. According to a study done by the Peabody Research Institute, counseling interventions have had the largest positive effects on youth, with recidivism decreasing by 13 percent, followed by multiple coordinated services (12 percent) and skill building programs (12 percent).

Many of the counseling programs that have yielded the most effective outcomes for youth focus on group-oriented philosophies, mentoring, and had a combination of various types of counseling. However, programs that focused solely on disciplinary approaches showed an 8 percent increase in recidivism. For older youth, connection to employment or the workforce system is also crucial to preventing relapse into criminal behavior.

The Second Chance Act has helped change the lens of service delivery for formerly incarcerated youth. The demonstration programs it has funded show that addressing the physical and social needs of youth is far  more effective than the tactics used by historically disciplinarian programs. Second Chance Act-funded programs have kept youth out of the system and engaged them in school and the workforce. Moreover, they have also benefited society at large by decreasing the crime rate, improving public safety, and lowering state Corrections costs.

Aug 12, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

New Legislation Introduced to Support Full-Service Community Schools

By Rhonda Bryant

On July 23, 2014, Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) introduced the Full-Service Community Schools Act of 2014. The full-service community school model co-locates education services and a range of vital health and social services, serving as a “one-stop shop” for students, families, and the community. This bipartisan bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to create a new competitive grant program, which would provide five-year grants to states, to implement statewide full-service community schools, as well as local partnerships between school districts and community-based organizations. A minimum of 10 percent of the funding would be designated for rural areas.

Proponents of the bill regard the community school model as a key strategy for increasing educational equity, narrowing achievement gaps, and graduating students who are college- and career-ready. This past April, the Coalition for Community Schools developed a framework to elevate community schools as a strategy to make our education system more equitable. The Coalition’s framework calls for three leadership structures:

  • Community-wide leadership groups comprised of school districts, government agencies, United Way chapters, businesses, community- and faith-based organizations are responsible for overall vision, policy, and resource alignment;
  • School-site leadership teams comprised of parents, residents, principals, teachers, community partners, and young people are responsible for planning, implementation, and continuous improvement; and
  • An intermediary entity provides planning, coordination, and management.

Through this integrated approach to partnerships, governance, and systems, communities can ensure everyone has a voice in planning and orchestrating a full-service community school model that meet their locale’s unique needs.

Legislation to fund full-service community schools was introduced in prior congressional sessions, but it has never been passed. However, through the appropriations process, a competitive grant program was created and administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Grants were awarded from 2008 through 2010, and a new competition to award $10 million in grants in FY 2014 is now underway.  While this funding from DOE is critical, the Full-Service Community Schools Act is essential codify the program and ensure its future availability.

Jun 28, 2013  |  PERMALINK »

Supreme Court Sends Affirmative Action Case Back to Lower Court

By Kisha Bird

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its much-awaited decision on the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin  (UT) case.  This challenge was brought by a white student, Fisher, who claims she was denied admission to UT due to an admissions policy that considers race.  For months, advocates of racial justice and supporters of affirmative action anxiously waited for this decision as it would have major implications for racial preferences in admissions to public colleges and universities, as well as for the broader legacy of affirmative action. 

In a seven to one decision, the Court neither rejected nor endorsed the race-based admissions policy at UT and sent the case back to a lower court, citing that not enough scrutiny had been given to the University of Texas' admissions program. With this ruling, the Court upholds previous decisions-including Grutter v. Bollinger-which affirmed the University of Michigan Law School's affirmative action program and held that diversity is a compelling interest for public universities and that race can be used as a factor in admissions.

The Constitutional Law Scholars, in a joint statement, notes that the Court's Fisher decision ultimately determined that "admissions programs that consider race as one of many factors in the context of an individualized consideration of all applicants can clearly pass constitutional review" and that the decision "makes clear that promoting diversity in higher education can justify race-conscious admissions policies when they are carefully designed and consider race only as part of a flexible and individualized review of all applicants." In sending the case back to the lower court, the Supreme Court further clarified how courts must determine if an admission policy passes muster. In a statement issued earlier this week, UT President Bill Powers called the decision encouraging.  Vowing to continue to defend the University's admission policy, he expressed confidence that it would satisfy the strict standards prescribed by the court.

Last summer, CLASP joined the Kirwan Institute and a national coalition of black male achievement initiatives (BMI)  in urging the Supreme Court to uphold the admissions procedures of the University of Texas.  In the BMI amicus brief, we advocated for the Court to examine the low numbers of African American males currently enrolled at select universities, citing that studies of college diversity seldom consider information about both race and gender.  Black males are "especially vulnerable to exclusion from postsecondary educational opportunities without every available constitutional tool to include them."  It is important to improve post-secondary and college attainment for all African-Americans, but great gender disparities exist.  Among U.S. residents, Black females are far more likely to have earned a post-secondary degree-accounting for 68 percent of associate's degrees, 66 percent of bachelor's degrees, 71 percent of master's degrees, and 65 percent of all doctor's degrees awarded to Black students. [i]

Holistic race-conscious admission policies help in allowing young black males to gain access to selective colleges and universities and are a critical tool in helping colleges and universities identify student talent and population groups that have been traditionally excluded from opportunities for higher education advancement.   CLASP is encouraged by this ruling and is hopeful that the American university community maintains a commitment to affirmative action policies and ensuring diversity.


[i] http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=72

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