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Issue Brief: Educating DCs Young People (June 9, 2010)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010
How D.C.’s juvenile justice system helps young people get the schooling they need

Education is a critical way to help young people leave delinquency behind and get on the right track.

Research and experience have shown the critical role schooling plays in helping young people prepare to join the workforce, to play a positive role in their families and neighborhoods, and help them leave juvenile crime behind. A study showed that a 5 percent increase in male graduation rates would save the country $5 billion in crime and incarceration costs, and another showed that places where more young people graduate from high school more often see less crime.

In the past, D.C.’s juvenile justice system was not addressing young people’s educational needs.

The average student committed to the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) is 16 years old, has completed a fraction of the school credits they would need to graduate, and their reading, writing and math skills are at a 4th or 5th grade level. Half of the young people in the juvenile justice system have special education needs. Despite these deep educational needs before DYRS instituted its reforms in 2005, school attendance for youth at Oak Hill was actually under 50 percent – an appalling situation—and the system kept no data on whether or not these young people were returning to school upon release. When on community supervision, the system did not focus enough on educating D.C. youth.

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