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Youth with Special Education Needs in Justice Settings Fact Sheet, NDTAC

This fact sheet, from the National Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Children and Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk (NDTAC), discusses the prevalence of disability within the juvenile justice system and describes some of the challenges of providing effective services for this population. Children with disabilities are more readily referred to the juvenile justice system than their peers and are often referred directly by their schools. This is due in part to a lack of services within their schools and communities that effectively support youth with disabilities who exhibit delinquent behavior.

This fact sheet estimates that anywhere from 30% to 80% of incarcerated youth have a disability, compared to 13% of youth in traditional public schools. The rate of specific learning disabilities in juvenile justice facilities has also been found to be more than seven times higher than in the general population. However, a 2010 survey found that only 46% of those with a diagnosed learning disability reported receiving special education services while in custody.

This fact sheet also discusses existing programs that improve outcomes for youth with disabilities in the juvenile justice system. It notes the importance of providing effective transition services and supports, as well as developing behavioral interventions within detention centers that are supportive, rather than punitive.