Addressing the Needs of Youth with Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System: The Current Status of Evidence-Based Research

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The views contained in this report do not necessarily represent those of the Administration as this and all NCD reports are not subject to the A-19 Executive Branch review process.

Letter of Transmittal

May 1, 2003

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), I am submitting a research study entitled Addressing the Needs of Youth with Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System: The Status of Evidence-Based Research. Through this research study, NCD evaluates the emerging status of key policies and programs that affect children and youth with disabilities who have often been overlooked by service and research programs. The issues of delinquency prevention and juvenile justice as they relate to children and youth with disabilities are relatively new for policymakers, yet they present some of the most complex and challenging problems that policymakers must grapple with and resolve.

Over the past several years, NCD has recognized that children and youth with disabilities have increasingly become overrepresented in the juvenile justice system. A significant proportion of youth in the juvenile justice system have education-related disabilities and are eligible for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Factors associated with the disproportionate representation of youth with disabilities in juvenile corrections are complex--but the available information suggests that school failure, poorly developed social skills, and inadequate school and community supports greatly increase the risks for arrest and incarceration. NCD believes, therefore, that delinquency prevention is a critical feature of any service or support system that is used to address the needs of all youth, especially youth with disabilities and special education needs.

Without a clear understanding of what works, communities can become awash in a maze of programs and services that claim effectiveness in deterring delinquency yet have no factual information or evidence supporting their effectiveness. NCD believes that your Administration can use the findings and recommendations from this research study to help shape the scope and direction of future federal initiatives designed to tackle delinquency prevention and juvenile justice. Such initiatives, for example, fall under the purview of the Department of Education and the Department of Justice.

To that end, NCD stands ready to work with our sister agencies and other stakeholders inside and outside the government to use the information and analyses from this research study to devise strategies for delinquency prevention and juvenile justice that work.


Lex Frieden

(The same letter of transmittal was sent to the President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate and the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.)

National Council on Disability Members and Staff


Lex Frieden, Chairperson, Texas
Patricia Pound, First Vice Chairperson, Texas
Glenn Anderson, Ph.D., Second Vice Chairperson, Arkansas

Milton Aponte, Florida
Robert R. Davila, Ph.D., New York
Barbara Gillcrist, New Mexico
Graham Hill, Virginia
Joel I. Kahn, Ohio
Young Woo Kang, Ph.D., Indiana
Kathleen Martinez, California
Carol Hughes Novak, Florida
Marco Rodriguez, California
David Wenzel, Pennsylvania
Linda Wetters, Ohio
Kate Pew Wolters, Michigan


Ethel D. Briggs, Executive Director
Jeffrey T. Rosen, General Counsel and Director of Policy
Mark S. Quigley, Director of Communications
Allan W. Holland, Chief Financial Officer
Julie Carroll, Attorney Advisor
Joan M. Durocher, Attorney Advisor
Martin Gould, Ed.D., Senior Research Specialist
Gerrie Drake Hawkins, Ph.D., Program Specialist
Pamela O'Leary, Interpreter
Brenda Bratton, Executive Assistant
Stacey S. Brown, Staff Assistant
Carla Nelson, Office Automation Clerk


The National Council on Disability expresses its appreciation to Daniel P. Mears, Ph.D., senior research associate, Justice Policy Center; Laudan Aron, research associate; and Jenny Bernstein, research assistant, Labor and Social Policy Center, for drafting this report, with assistance from Ruth M. White, research associate, Justice Policy Center, for the Disability and Juvenile Justice project at the Urban Institute.