By David Hornstein, CFCC Student Fellow 2014-2015
- Parents working multiple jobs, sometimes unable to take their children to school
- Incarcerated parents
- Children living in a group home
- Children having to walk through a dangerous neighborhood to get to school
- Pressures on children to work or engage in illicit activity in an effort to supplement family income
This list is not definitive; it merely scratches the surface of the problems faced by children who live in impoverished neighborhoods. As children fail to attend school for any one of the aforementioned reasons, their grades suffer. The correlation between an individual’s success in school, more specifically his/her ability to read, and incarceration is alarming. A student not reading at a third grade level by the third grade is three to four times as likely not to graduate high school on time, and this figure actually increases to six times as likely not to graduate high school on time for students from low income families. More importantly, a study conducted by Northwestern University determined high school dropouts are sixty three times more likely to be incarcerated than college graduates.
These statistics should paint a picture of the importance of education, particularly elementary education. Currently, juvenile justice systems across the country have the overarching goal of rehabilitating youth offenders in an effort to reduce future encounters with the law. Interventions offered by the justice system include educational and vocational training programs, aimed at educating youth offenders so that they may receive the education and skills necessary to support themselves without living a delinquent life.
Maryland’s Department of Juvenile Services currently operates 7 juvenile detention centers across the state, dealing with individuals 18 and younger who enter the justice system. Maryland could possibly reduce the number of youth involved in the juvenile justice system by proactively concentrating on elementary education. Providing child-care services before and after school would allow parents to work longer in an effort to support their families while allowing their children to attend school. Making routes to school safer by means of police enforcement or volunteers would encourage attendance and learning in elementary school. Proactive measures such as these could reduce the numbers of youth involved in the juvenile justice system.