Federal Government Offers Education Guidance for Incarcerated Children

a_eduALEXANDRIA, Va. – U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder today announced a Correctional Education Guidance Package aimed at helping states and local agencies strengthen the quality of education services provided to America’s estimated 60,000 young people in confinement every day.

This guidance package builds on recommendations in the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force reportreleased in May to “reform the juvenile and criminal justice systems to reduce unnecessary interactions for youth and to enforce the rights of incarcerated youth to a quality education.” Today’s guidance package is a roadmap that states and local agencies can use to improve the quality of educational services for confined youth.

“Students in juvenile justice facilities need a world-class education and rigorous coursework to help them successfully transition out of facilities and back into the classroom or the workforce becoming productive members of society. Young people should not fall off-track for life just because they come into contact with the justice system,” Duncan said.

“In this great country, all children deserve equal access to a high-quality public education – and this is no less true for children in the juvenile justice system,” said Attorney General Holder.  “At the Department of Justice, we are working tirelessly to ensure that every young person who’s involved in the system retains access to the quality education they need to rebuild their lives and reclaim their futures. We hope and expect this guidance will offer a roadmap for enhancing these young people’s academic and social skills, and reducing the likelihood of recidivism.”

“Today’s announcement directly responds to the call to action made by President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. It is imperative that we ensure that incarcerated youth are receiving a quality education and provide them with the necessary tools for a second chance. I applaud Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary Arne Duncan for highlighting this critical issue,” said Broderick Johnson, White House Cabinet Secretary and Chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.

The guidance package includes four components:

“High-quality correctional education is thus one of the most effective crime-prevention tools we have,” Duncan and Holder wrote in a dear colleague letter to chief state school officers and state attorneys general. “High-quality correctional education – including postsecondary correctional education, which can be supported by Federal Pell Grants – has been shown to measurably reduce re-incarceration rates. Less crime means not only lower prison costs – it also means safer communities.”

The President has set a goal that, by 2020, our nation will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world and that all Americans complete at least one year or more of college or career training. The Administration believes that even youth in correctional facilities can play their part in helping us achieve that vision.

For young people who are incarcerated, access to a high-quality education during their confinement is a vitally important and cost-effective strategy for ensuring they become productive members of their communities. The average cost to confine a juvenile is $88,000 per year – and a recent study showed that about 55 percent of youth were rearrested within 12 months of release. Inmates of all ages are half as likely to go back to jail if they participate in higher education – even compared to inmates with similar histories.

This joint effort by the departments of Education and Justice is one of a number of notable actions that they have taken to ensure that education programming in juvenile justice residential facilities is comparable to services provided in any school. The departments have been working together to help communities reduce the number of youth entering the justice system and to ensure that those in the system return to their communities with dignity, skills and viable education and employment opportunities including the following efforts this year:

  • Education and Justice jointly released a School Climate and Discipline Guidance Package to provide schools with a roadmap to reduce the usage of exclusionary discipline practice and clarify schools’ civil rights obligation to not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin in the administration of school discipline.
  • Education released the results of the 2011-2012 Civil Rights Data Collection, which includes school discipline data from most every school in the country and certain juvenile justice facilities.
  • Education and Justice filed a joint Statement of Interest in the G.F. v. Contra Costa County lawsuit in support of confined youth with disabilities who alleged that they were placed in solitary confinement for 22 hours or more per day, discriminated against on the basis of their disability, and denied their right to a free, appropriate public education.
  • Duncan and Holder met with leaders from 22 agencies for a Federal Interagency Reentry Council meeting to discuss actions to reduce reentry barriers to employment, health, housing, and education for individuals who are transitioning from incarceration to community.
  • Education and Justice engaged with various philanthropies to commission a School Discipline Consensus Project, led by the Council of State Governments, to bring together practitioners from the fields of education, juvenile justice, behavioral health, and law enforcement, to develop recommendations to address the school-to-prison pipeline, including recommendations for strengthening services to youth in confinement.
  • Education and Justice coordinated and supported the National Leadership Summit on School Climate and Discipline in Washington, D.C. The summit focused on deepening partnerships between local and state education and justice officials and community stakeholders.

All youth are deserving of an appropriate, high-quality education. This guidance package clarifies that obligation for confined youth, as well as advocating that they have a real chance at a second chance in their lives. A solid education that unleashes and expands their potential to contribute to their communities is a step in the right direction.


NYC Community Forum on Higher Education- Focus on Ending the Prison Cycle

TTEF is a member of the Education From The Inside Out coalition,  are excited to announce that we will co-sponsor, along with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and many community organizations, a community forum entitled:Community Forum on Higher Education to Reduce Recidivism, Transform Lives.

Transcending Through Education Foundation is currently focused on assisting people in Rhode Island, but our work and our supporters are across the nation.  Those in the New York City area are invited to share your experiences and opinions,  learn from others, and build momentum toward making a change.  Please come to gain information about how you can become involved and make a difference.

When: Tuesday, October 22nd, 6pm – 8pmWhere: Harlem State Office Building, 163 West 125th St., 2nd Floor, New York, NY

Spread the word!  Download the flyer here. Email ysafdie@collegeandcommunity.org if you would like to co-sponsor the event or have any questions.

RSVP: www.tinyurl.com/CommunityForumHigherEd

We are looking forward to seeing many of you there!


Young Man Released From Prison Facing “Backlash” of Pursuing Education

symplogoThe recent controversy surrounding a young man pursuing his education at the University of Rhode Island raises several societal issues. (“One student’s journey from state prison to URI sparks inquiry,” Katherine Gregg, 2/24/13). Should we encourage all Rhode Islanders to pursue an education, regardless of background? How do we encourage the formerly incarcerated to successfully re-enter society and assume their rights and responsibilities as citizens?

I am Co-Founder and President of the Transcending Through Education Foundation. The Foundation was founded last year to encourage and support people who are incarcerated and were formerly incarcerated in pursuing higher education. We believe education is the most effective tool in helping people live productive lives and become better citizens.  Postsecondary education has proven to lead to greater civic participation and higher earnings.

URI and other institutions of higher education should of course consider the background of applicants and the safety of students and faculty when making admissions decisions, whether the applicant has a criminal record or not. However, in this case, URI did not have the benefit of assessing Mr. Jones’s criminal record in making its decision because the alternate admission application he filled out did not request the information.

URI states that normally they review applicants with a criminal record on a “case-by-case” basis.  We support case-by-case reviews and commend URI for having such a review process. We also encourage URI and other institutions of higher-learning to continue to develop criteria that assess more than a person’s criminal record when making an admission decision. Relevant criteria should be developed from a thoughtful and knowledgeable position that can withstand the occasional controversy.

As Rhode Island’s flagship public university, URI has a role in educating all Rhode Islanders. This includes qualified applicants from the over 20,000 Rhode Islanders living in the community on probation or parole and the many more who have a criminal record. Educational institutions serve a historical role in providing people with a way out of challenging circumstances, whether they are born into them or are responsible for them through a series of bad decisions. If universities relied solely on criminal background checks, they would practically foreclose a vital pathway to a better life for many people. And we would collectively reinforce a cycle of poverty and struggle, sometimes leading to prison, for the same population.

Without knowing Malcolm Jones’s specific circumstances, we know that he decided to pursue his education, most likely as a way to better his life, as many other citizens also do.  We should encourage more people to do the same and support the efforts of our institutions of higher education in providing people with that opportunity.


Andres Idarraga


Transcending Through Education Foundation