Although the number of children in detention centers has dramatically decreased over the past 15 years, there are still an estimated 55,000 juveniles behind bars. Regardless of whether they have committed a crime, they have the right to an education that must be provided for while in the detention center.
The structure of education for many juvenile detention centers is not yet consistent, and the quality widely varies. Dependent on the location, education services in detention centers can be under the oversight of juvenile justice bureaus or the school district and are directly managed by either public or private providers. Without previously agreed upon methods of oversight and measures of performance, there is no way to ensure that the children behind bars are receiving the education they need.
In his interview with the Atlantic, David Domenici, director of the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS) addressed the importance of emphasizing quality education in detention centers. “Reaching out to students, finding their humanity, challenging them, supporting them, pushing them to excel. There’s excitement about what can happen, what can be done.”
In Utah, there are sponsored art and expression classes. Wyoming leads coding and programming classes to challenge the students to achieve beyond the average classroom environment and find their passion in a constructive field. Oregon administers college level courses in many of its youth facilities. These are only a few of many examples. Although there are many more, there are also many facilities that need an improvement in their education services.
Education gives opportunity. It is a pathway that leads to understanding, expressing oneself and connecting with the surrounding environment in a positive way. Through engaging in a quality education, there is opportunity for students to grow and understand themselves, eventually leading to them becoming responsible, caring and contributing citizens to society.
Prison Fellowship works to restore the juvenile justice system so that youth who have made poor decisions in their past are able to become confident, self-sufficient, and contributing citizens. To learn more about Prison Fellowship’s efforts to create a fairer, more effective juvenile justice system, click here.