Preventing Children with Disabilities from Entering the Juvenile Justice System

ndrnApproximately 65 - 70 percent of young people in the justice system meet the criteria for a disability. During time in the system, many children are deprived of the services they need for healthy growth, education, and development—something that negatively impacts children with disabilities more seriously than others.

The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) released a report this month with recommendations on preventing disproportionate placement and inadequate treatment of children with disabilities in the system: “Orphanages, Training Schools, Reform Schools and Now This?”

The findings in the report are based on reports from the nationwide Protection and Advocacy (P&A) System, which provides legal and other advocacy services to children and youth with disabilities in the juvenile justice system. The P&A system maintains a presence in prisons, jails, and detention centers, and has the legal authority to monitor and investigate allegations of abuse in these facilities.

In the report, NDRN provides the background information on each of the following problems:

  • Incarceration of children with disabilities does not improve their future behavior and does not make communities safer.
  • Failures in other systems are often the cause of child with disabilities being placed in the juvenile justice system.
  • Once children with disabilities are in the system, they are treated inhumanly and are not provided the services they need for their health and to prevent recidivism.
  • Children with disabilities are detained more readily and remain in the system longer than other children.

The report concludes with recommendations to improve on these growing problems:

  • “Congress should authorize and fund a Protection and Advocacy for Juvenile Justice Program to help divert youth with disabilities from entering the juvenile justice system, investigate and monitor conditions for youth with disabilities in the juvenile justice system, and ensure proper return to the community with needed services and supports.”
  • “Congress should prohibit the use of solitary confinement and/or isolation for all juveniles, including those housed in adult settings.”
  • “Congress should require that schools identified as having elevated school-based arrest rates:  1) lose the opportunity to use federal funds to employ School Resource Officers (SROs); 2) ensure SROs work is limited to traditional police activities and not discipline of non- violent student behavior; and, 3) require SROs in those schools to undergo training in specific, related topics.”
  • “The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and Department of Justice (DOJ) should fully enforce laws requiring that education of youth in facilities is equal to that provided to students in other public schools.”

For more information, visit the NDRN website and access the full report.

Updated: February 08 2018