The Challenge and Opportunity Ahead for our Criminal Justice System

In 2014, the National Research Council, the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, released “The Growth of Incarceration in the United States, Exploring Causes and Consequences,” which pointed out that U.S. incarceration rates are 5-10 times higher than rates in Western Europe and other major democracies. It noted the staggering racial disparities in incarceration, and called for a significant reduction in rates of imprisonment saying that the rise in the U.S. prison population is “not serving the country well.”

This report didn’t make a huge splash in the press, but it cemented an emerging recognition that our criminal justice policies – our school discipline, “war on drugs,” “truth in sentencing,” and “three strikes and you’re out” policies – of recent decades resulted in unprecedented and costly U.S. incarceration rates that are both ineffective as a crime reduction strategy and harmful to our social fabric. It is safe to say that this is not how we want to be known in the world community. Instead, we should be known for how we engage at-risk populations, how we reinvest in people who deserve a second chance, and how we support the successful transition of justice-involved individuals back into our communities.

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Restoring the Promise of Education for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

Young students who are expelled or suspended are 10 times more likely to drop out of high school, experience academic failure and grade retention, hold negative school attitudes, and face incarceration than those who are not. Sadly, a significant number of students are removed from class each year — even for minor infractions of school rules. One study found that 95 percent of out-of-school suspensions were for nonviolent, minor disruptions such as tardiness or disrespect.

Exclusionary discipline practices tend to disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities (see more). Nationwide, data collected by our Office for Civil Rights show that African-American students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. While black students represent 16% of student enrollment, they represent 27% of students referred to law enforcement and 31% of students subjected to a school-related arrest.

Gender matters, too.  While boys receive more than two out of three suspensions, black girls are suspended at higher rates (12 percent) than girls of any other race or ethnicity and most boys. And when looking at disabilities, disparities persist, as well. Although students who receive special education services represent 12 percent of students in the country, they make up 23 percent of students referred to law enforcement and 23 percent of students receiving a school-related arrest.

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Johan E. Uvin is the Acting Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education.

How Effective is Correctional Education?

Did you catch the announcement by the RAND Corporation today of a major analysis of research to address the question: “How Effective is Correctional Education?”  Both Attorney General Holder and Secretary of Education Duncan commented on this seminal meta-analysis of research on correctional education in a press release out today.

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Webinar Follow-Up: Correctional Ed Technology Resources

Last month OVAE hosted a webinar on emerging community college correctional and reentry education models and the many contributions community colleges can make to promote more effective reentry of incarcerated individuals.  During that event, Brian Walsh from Peninsula College in Port Angeles, WA discussed the many innovations his institution has implemented to strengthen the education and training programs offered at Clallam Bay Corrections Center and Olympia Corrections Center.  There was a lot of interest in particular in the way Brian’s programs have been able to use technology inside the prison.  Brian has shared with us a list of many of the technology resources his institution utilizes, which you can find here.

In case you missed the live event, you can watch the full webinar and download a copy of the presentation slides here.

Webinar Recap: Community Colleges and Correctional/Reentry Education

OVAE hosted the second event in its 2013 Community College Webinar Series on Wednesday, April 10 in collaboration with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT).  This event focused on emerging community college correctional and reentry education models and the many contributions community colleges can make to promoting more effective reentry of incarcerated individuals. 

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President’s FY14 Budget Request Released This Week

On Wednesday the President sent his FY14 budget request to Congress. To learn more about the President’s budget proposal for education, visit: For specific budget information related to OVAE’s programs, visit here. We’ll post further analysis of the OVAE proposed budget in the coming days.

Reminder: Community College Webinar Series Continues Tomorrow

The second event in OVAE’s 2013 Community College Webinar Series will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, April 10 from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. EDT, and will focus on emerging community college correctional and reentry education models. Click here to register for the webinar.

Reentry education, building a working model

OVAE’s reentry demonstration grant program to invest in innovative programs preparing incarcerated individuals to successfully reenter society with the support of education and workforce training is in good company.  ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services is supporting demonstration grants to develop and model effective practices for returning youth in juvenile justice confinement who have Individual Education Plans under the IDEA program. 

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