ARTICLE

From Incarceration to School

How to help young offenders make the transition.

As young people move from rigidly structured environments in detention facilities to mainstream schools, they are at risk of succumbing once again to the social and personal influences that contributed to their delinquency.

They also are at risk of finding themselves in schools that are unprepared to support their continued rehabilitation and educational growth. In its Juvenile Justice Bulletin, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention suggests schools consider the following steps:

Obtain relevant information. Before students arrive, make sure educational records reflect coursework and programs completed in detention facilities. Touch base with students' probation or parole officers.

Prepare the staff. Share relevant information and observations about transitioning youth. Train teachers and other school workers in conflict resolution. If dealing with a violent offender, review your school's emergency or crisis plan with staff.

Set expectations with students and their families. Be clear about expectations. Review your school's student/parent handbook. Discuss and develop individual behavior plans. Create "behavior contracts" students and their parents or guardians sign.

Support students. Assign one counselor with whom a student can work as long as he or she is in school. Make classroom placements carefully; be mindful of academic performance levels and special education needs. Identify teachers who have successfully assisted transitioning youth in the past.

Pay attention. Monitor students' behaviors, including relationships with others, task completion, tardiness and attendance. Encourage students' participation in extracurricular activities. On a regular basis, share relevant information and observations concerning students among teachers and staff.

Facilitate interagency collaboration. Refer students and their families to support services provided by outside agencies. Provide office space on campus for juvenile justice personnel. Keep lines of communication open between schools, community agencies and juvenile justice representatives.

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