Children with disabilities are disproportionately placed in the juvenile justice system, receive inadequate treatment and are denied educational opportunities, the National Disability Rights Network asserted in a report released today.
“More than 65 percent of youth in the justice system meet the criteria for a disability, a rate that is three times higher than that of the general population,” said Curt Decker, NDRN’s executive director. “The millions we spend housing and feeding our young people behind razor wire can be far better spent helping them to find their way in this world.”
The findings in Orphanages, Training Schools, Reform Schools and Now This? are based upon scores of reports from the nationwide Protection and Advocacy (P&A) System. P&As provide legal and other advocacy services to children and youth with disabilities in the juvenile justice system, and also maintain a presence in the facilities in which they are found, including prisons, jails, and detention centers. P&As have the legal authority to monitor and investigate allegations of abuse in these facilities.
Issues addressed in this report include: Diversion of children and youth with disabilities from the juvenile justice system (particularly stemming the “School to Prison Pipeline”), humane conditions while incarcerated (such as accommodation and communication needs, medical care, mental health treatment, and the prevention of abuse and neglect) and re-entry services like education and treatment to ensure the child or youth’s success upon release from the facility.
The report describes the problems children and youth with disabilities encounter, solutions used with success by the P&As, and provides specific recommendations for systemic improvements.
Some of those recommendations include: