considerably inadequate, especially given the prevalence of severe mental illness among this
i. Denial of educational services
As with mental illness, the prevalence of learning disabilities and other behavioral
problems is similarly disproportionate among confined youth.126 Educational achievement and
rates of success in school are also lower among youth who are incarcerated, with studies
suggesting that these youth perform, on average, four years below grade level in reading and
math.127 Additionally, a significant percentage of youth in detention and commitment facilities
have disabilities that substantially affect their education, and either have or should have been
identified for special education services.128 Forcing youth in isolation to miss school or other
activities can also increase depression and suicidal ideation and attempts.129
Youth already identified as eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA), or in some cases those not yet identified, have special protections against
exclusion from school for violations of disciplinary rules.130 Nothing in the IDEA excludes from
coverage, or diminishes the rights of, children with education-related disabilities who are detained
or incarcerated in delinquency facilities.131 Taking any young person out of school in a detention
or long-term incarceration setting is inconsistent with a youth’s care and rehabilitation, as well as
a state statutory right to education.
ii. Inadequate mental health care
The juvenile justice system is not designed to adequately address the needs of adolescents
with mental disorders.132 The apparent goal of the juvenile justice system has seemed to move
away from rehabilitation and towards community protection.133 The use of isolation and other
behavior-control methods is simply not conducive to the care of mentally ill teenagers.134 As a
result, “[t]he juvenile justice system is fraught with inconsistencies in screening and diagnosis
along with a limited capacity for mental health services.”135
(explaining that the DOJ Special Litigation section found that the Indiana Juvenile Correctional Facility did not provide youth with
adequate special education services, as required by the IDEA, including “(1) child find; (2) general education interventions; (3)
Individual Education Plans (“IEPs”); (4) access to the general education curriculum; (5) student behavior; (6) staffing; and (7)
transition services”); Letter from Wan J. Kim, Assistant Att’y Gen., to Ted Strickland, Governor of Ohio 14-16 (May 9, 2007)
[hereinafter Letter to Governor of Ohio], available at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/documents/scioto_findlet_5-9-07.pdf;
Letter from Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Att’y Gen., to Robert Moore, Chair, Leflore Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors 9-14 (Mar. 31, 2011),
available at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/documents/LeFloreJDC_findlet_03-31-11.pdf.
125 INT’L SOC’Y OF PSYCHIATRIC-MENTAL HEALTH NURSES, MEETING THE MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS OF YOUTH IN JUVENILE JUSTICE
2 (2008), http://www.ispn-psych.org/docs/JuvenileJustice.pdf.
126 Mary Magee Quinn et al., Youth with Disabilities in Juvenile Corrections: A National Survey, 71 EXCEPTIONAL CHILD. 339, 339-
40 (2005). “The prevalence of such disorders among the juvenile justice population, has led some professionals to characterize
juvenile justice as a ‘default system’ for youth who can’t read or write well, who have mental health problems, and who drop out or
are forced out of school.” Id.
127 Michael P. Krezmien et al., Detained and Committed Youth: Examining Differences in Achievement, Mental Health Needs, and
Special Education Status, 31 EDUC. & TREATMENT CHILDREN 445, 453 (2008).
128 Id. at 458-59; see also Katherine Twomey, Note, The Right to Education in Juvenile Detention Under State Constitutions, 94 VA.
L. REV. 765, 771 (2008) (noting that the percentage of incarcerated youth with disabilities that may qualify for special education is as
high as seventy percent); Kevin W. Alltucker, et al., Different Pathways to Juvenile Delinquency: Characteristics of Early and Late
Starters in a Sample of Previously Incarcerated Youth, 15 J. CHILD & FAM. STUDIES 475, 481 (2006) (noting that between thirty and
fifty percent “of juvenile offenders have a documented disability, compared with about 13% of the general population”).
129 PUISIS, supra note 60, at 139.
130 20 U.S.C.A. § 1415(a)-(b), (k) (West 2014).
132 INT’L SOC’Y OF PSYCHIATRIC-MENTAL HEALTH NURSES, supra note 125 (“[T]he primary mission of the juvenile justice system
has been the provision of public safety and therefore the system is ill-equipped to be the nation’s primary provider of child and
adolescent mental health care.”).