Sunday, July 07, 2019

Incarceration = No Education: The New Math

by Queen Dara

5/9/2018:  Two weeks before completing his 11th grade year...

“Mom, can the school send my work and final exams, because I want to be on track to graduate.”

Unfortunately, Son, because you are in an adult facility, it is not designed to accommodate your educational needs.

“So they don’t care if I graduate?”

No Son, the only ones who care if you graduate are you, me, family and friends. By law they are supposed to see that you get your education, but right now the only laws they are concerned with are the laws that will keep you incarcerated. It will be up to us, us meaning you, me, and the family to see that you stay educated despite your situation.

“Mom, I don’t want my life to be bad. I just want to finish school and put this behind me. I want to play football and be the best wide receiver.”

Well Son, we are going to have to fight hard to make that possible and not rely on a system that was created to destroy you. But I promise I will fight like hell to hold them accountable for not keeping their laws. You just keep your head up and remain focused. We got this, they can’t keep you forever, Son. I won’t let them.

“I know Mom. That's why I love you so much.”

This is how the (F)Law System works when it comes to Education vs Incarceration:
  • approximately 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults in the U.S. every year
  • approximately 10,000 juveniles are housed in adult jails and prisons
  • 39 states permit or require that youth charged as adults are being held in an adult facility before they are tried
  • all juveniles held in adult prisons have been convicted as adults
  • while being incarcerated in adult facilities, the chances of a juvenile continuing education are lessened, especially if the juvenile is given a lengthy sentence
  • nearly half of incarcerated juveniles (students) are academically below their grade equivalent for their age, which means that many of those juveniles are eligible for special education services
Did you know?

There are numerous federal and state laws granting all juveniles the right to education, which applies to youth in correctional facilities. However, many housed in adult facilities do not have access to any education. Forty percent of the jails and prisons in the U.S. have no educational services at all. Only 11% of correctional facilities provide special education and a mere 7% of correctional facilities provide vocational training.

The Individuals with Disabilities Act requires that incarcerated youth with learning disabilities or other intellectual, psychological, or emotional disorders be granted education that serves individual needs and prepares students for college, employment, and independent living. Even with Federal and State laws and acts in place, illiteracy still plagues the so-called “correctional" system that neglects to correct the problem for incarcerated juveniles.

Where does this leave our youth?

A 2015 report indicated that there were still 15 states that did not include juvenile justice facilities in their State Education Accountability system. The lack of state accountability in juvenile facilities presents a problem by not ensuring that juveniles are receiving quality, meaningful education. This lack of accountability leaves incarcerated juveniles caught in the “blame game” between the State and Local Departments of Education and the Department of Corrections, thus leaving juveniles still lacking in education and increasing the likelihood of their return to prison after being released.

These same juveniles also struggle when returning to an educational setting, if they even return. Other factors may include: lost paperwork, lack of parental and community guidance and support, trouble re-integrating into society, and trauma-related issues from detention and solitary confinement.

What we are looking at is another form of injustice. To expect those who have been incarcerated to return to society as productive law-abiding citizens, but not give them the necessary means to do so is a set up. In order for the incarcerated and/or formerly incarcerated to be successful with reintegration, education must be a part of the process prior to and after release.

NOTE: Last year, Queen Dara and I had a phone conversation about this and I told her I wanted to post her essay on this blog. It didn't happen at that time. But today, for whatever reason, I came across it again and started thinking about her and her son, their struggle, and the struggle of so many families who are trying to keep their loved ones from disappearing down a dark hole forever. I remember how helpless I felt when my son called from jail and said, "I don't want this to become my life, Mom." He's dead now. So I fight for all the Mom's sons who are still alive.

No comments: