In Focus: Key Youth Legislation

Apr 21, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

Every Student Succeeds Act Primer: High School Dropout Prevention and Reengagement of Out-of-School Youth

CLASP recently partnered with the Alliance for Excellent Education and the National Youth Employment Coalition to develop a brief that outlines several key provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that can support states and districts in preventing students from dropping out of high school and reengaging out-of-school youth and makes important linkages to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.  ESSA provides an opportunity for education leaders to partner with workforce leaders and other stakeholders to implement strategies that focus on struggling students and vulnerable youth. For the full brief please click here.

Mar 30, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

In 2016, Key Wins for Justice-Involved Youth, but More Work Ahead

By Andrea Amaechi

In the juvenile justice world, 2016 started off with significant wins for young people. President Obama took landmark executive action forbidding solitary confinement of juveniles in federal prisons. In Montgomery v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court made a previous ruling retroactive—affirming that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles are cruel and unusual punishment and violate the 8th amendment of the Constitution. These actions recognize the vulnerability of youth in penal institutions and that they have lesser culpability than adults for their crimes because of their brain development.

Following these positive developments from the executive and judicial branches, opportunities remain for Congress to follow suit. Bills related to community-based services for justice-involved youth; education and workforce development for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals; and sentencing reform are waiting in Congress to be moved. Proposed legislation includes:

These policies would especially have a tremendous impact on the educational attainment, employment prospects, and well-being of youth of color— particularly African American youth— who experience disparate involvement with the justice system at all levels of contact, and the disparities grow at almost every step. In 2010, African Americans comprised 17 percent of all youth ages 10-17, but accounted for 31 percent of all juvenile arrests. They are more likely to be referred to juvenile court than are white youth, are more likely to be processed rather than diverted, are more likely to be adjudicated delinquent, and are more likely to be sent to secure confinement.

Ultimately, our aim should be to minimize the number of youth who fall into the juvenile justice system in the first place, and a growing entry point to prison is the school. Reforming school and district suspension and expulsion policies, reducing law enforcement and police presence in schools, and investing in support staff—including guidance counselors, social workers, and psychologists—is a great place to start. For youth who already have justice system involvement, these actions could prevent further arrests, especially for youth of color who disproportionately experience out-of-school suspensions and expulsions.

For youth who are on probation or parole, strong partnerships between the courts, juvenile and adult justice agencies, and education and workforce development system are key to successfully placing and retaining youth in education and employment pathways. All of these federal bills could promote these partnerships by offering funding streams that can be leveraged. For example, Second Chance Act funds bring together the justice system and workforce development systems in some communities. And restoration of Pell grant eligibility to incarcerated individuals would incentivize postsecondary institutions to develop collaborative programs with penal institutions. Community-based interventions such as the youth opportunity movement have proved to reduce high school dropout, increase Pell grant receipt, boost employment rates, and reduce crime and juvenile delinquency.

The actions of President Obama and the Supreme Court will make a big difference for youth and young adults who are confined in penal institutions. For the significant numbers of youth who are court-involved and in the community, policies aimed at promoting their education, workforce preparation, and employment will go a long way towards unlocking doors of opportunity, ensuring that they can realize their potential, successfully remain in the community, and avoid future arrests or deeper involvement with the justice system. 

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.

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