Juvenile Justice And LD

Studies have shown that youth with disabilities are over represented in the US juvenile justice system (Burrell and Warboys, 2000). This would imply that there is a need for both preventative services for children with disabilities to keep them out of the juvenile justice system as well as services for youth already in it.

A conservative estimate of the prevalence of youth with disabilities in the juvenile justice system is 32%, which is significantly greater than the 9% prevalence of school-age children with disabilities in the US (U.S. Department of Education, 2000). This suggests that "youth with a specific learning disability or an emotional disturbance are more vulnerable to placement in juvenile or adult corrections than youth not identified as disabled" (Quinn et all, 2001). In fact, a survey completed by the Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice with the National Center on Education, Disability and Juvenile Justice (CECP/EDJJ) found that 46% of your with a disability in a correctional facility were diagnosed with a specific learning disability, and 45% were diagnosed with an emotional disturbance. These findings suggest two things, according to the Quinn et all article: "First, local schools and communities must recognize that youth placed at risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system, including students with disabilities, must receive support and preventative services to minimize their vulnerability," and that "community-based services in lieu of incarceration can provide appropriate sanctions for youth while avoiding the negative outcomes associated with imprisonment."

Unfortunately, however, these services are not being provided. Aside from the preventative measures that can be taken, only 73% of the correctional facilities surveyed by the CECP/EDJJ had procedures in place for identifying needs and delivering special education services to incarcerated youth. Furthermore, these facilities reported that only 17% of their teachers were certified to teach special education. All of these data show that correctional facilities are behind in the development of programs and services for youth with disabilities, despite the requirement for these services under IDEA.


Burell, S., & Warboys, L. M. (2000). Special education and the juvenile justice system.
Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention. (Eric Digest 450 515).

Quinn, Mary et al (2001). Students with Disabilities in Correctional Facilities. (Eric Digest 461 958).

US Department of Education (2000). Twenty-second annual report to Congress on the
implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC:
Author. (Eric Digest 444 333).

This page was created by Jimmy Sarakatsannis.