California’s Groundbreaking Investment in Education for Incarcerated Youth

by Shealeigh

In an article for The Imprint News, Jeremy Loudenback and Sara Tiano dive into the details of California’s June 30, 2023, signed budget, which incorporates investments in higher education for incarcerated youth and reinforces oversight of educational institutions within youth detention facilities.

The budget administers $80 million for alternative schools, serving students who face various challenges such as behavioral issues and learning disabilities, and $15 million for programs that “connect incarcerated youth to higher education.” County probation departments are required to offer secondary education options in juvenile detention facilities, and county offices of education will also receive additional funds to operate alternative and juvenile court schools.

The goals of these new measures are to improve the lives of young incarcerated individuals, offer a second chance while in detention facilities, and set them up for success afterward. The budget requires education and probation officials to assess the academic status of youth entering and leaving juvenile detention facilities and create an education plan for them.

In addition, all county probation departments are now required to offer college courses, in-person or online, in youth detention facilities. The goal is to provide transferable college courses that count towards a Bachelor’s degree and allow incarcerated students to earn high school and college credits in any University of California or California State University campus.

Participating colleges will offer on-campus programming, allowing youth to complete their courses after release. This adjustment to the California state budget is seen as a significant step forward, addressing long-standing issues within the system. Katie Bliss, California’s higher education coordinator at the Youth Law Center, described the investment as “nationally historic” for an overlooked population.

Research supports the importance of providing education to incarcerated individuals, with the Vera Institute of Justice breaking down these benefits. Their research shows that recidivism significantly decreases for those who attend college while in detention. Ultimately, taxpayers could be saving $365.8 million annually by increasing educational opportunities in prison.

The budget expands access to higher education and emphasizes individualized evaluations and transition plans for detained students, ensuring they receive the necessary support. Additionally, the budget introduces greater oversight, mandating that the California Department of Education publicly post data from juvenile court schools. This comprehensive approach aims to provide incarcerated youth with the education and support they need to break the cycle of crime and improve their prospects.

EdSource, a nonprofit group based in California, published an article three days before the budget passed, exploring how this increased investment would support students who have previously faced challenges in traditional schools.

However, since July 7, 2023, no establishment media outlet has covered the importance of investments in education specifically for incarcerated youth. Lack of corporate coverage prevents the public from recognizing the need for incarcerated youth to not only access education but also to receive the funding necessary to facilitate learning.

Betty Márquez Rosales, “California’s Most Vulnerable Students May Be Seeing Increased Funding Soon,” EdSource, June 27, 2023.
Jeremy Loudenback and Sara Tiano, “California Invests in Education for Incarcerated Youth,” The Imprint News, July 7, 2023.

Student Researchers: Raeghan Brousseau, Amara Padula, Tara Shea, and Natasha Tykulsky (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Faculty Evaluators: Allison Butler and Jeewon Chon (University of Massachusetts Amherst)