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Jailed Youth With Disabilities Face Poor Treatment and Support, Report Says

Young people with disabilities who end up in the juvenile justice system are too often denied the educational, mental health, and re-entry services that can help them avoid jail in the future, according a report from the National Disability Rights Network, in Washington. 

Released this week, the report "Orphanages, Training Schools, Reform Schools and Now This?" notes that studies suggest that 65 to 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have mental health disabilities. The report contains several suggestions for lawmakers, communities, and schools, such as: 

  • The Departments of Justice and Education must fully enforce laws such as the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act for youth in correctional facilities;
  • Schools with high school-based arrest rates should lose the ability to use federal funds to employ school resource officers; 
  • School resource officers should not be used to enforce non-violent school code violations;
  • States should develop individualized reentry plans for youth that include academic instruction, and vocational and life skills training. 

Another goal of the organization is to see more use of diversion programs, so that young people with disabilities don't end up in jail in the first place, said Curt Decker, the executive director of the organization. 

"States spend so much money on these facilities—you would think they would understand that getting to the problem earlier is, in the long run, so much less expensive than what they're doing," Decker said. 

The National Disability Rights Network is the national membership organization for the  Protection and Advocacy and Client Advocacy System agencies. These agencies are federally mandated, and serve a protection and advocacy role for people with disabilities. NDRN was also active in bringing attention to the use of restraint and seclusion in schools

Last December, the Justice and Education Departments released joint guidance aimed at improving the educational outcomes for incarcerated youth

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