NPR Illinois: Online Learning Can Open Doors For Kids In Juvenile Jails

Youth in contact with the juvenile justice system encounter significant barriers trying to earn their high school diplomas while detained in youth prisons. The R.J. v. Jones consent decree, a case filed by the ACLU in 2012 aimed at improving conditions and services for young people detained in Illinois juvenile justice facilities, is helping to improve access to education at a high rate, NPR Illinois reports. The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) education program is transitioning to a blended-learning model of teacher-led instruction and online learning. Thanks to a number of reform measures, the overall youth population detained at youth prisons has dropped dramatically from 901 at the end of 2012 to 386 in 2017. While there are disparities in quality of instruction among the DJJ facilities and continued efforts to improve, this is a rare feat nationwide. Currently, only 13 states offer educational services for youth inside juvenile facilities that are comparable to their peers. One of the DJJ-run school districts, District 428, awarded 73 high school diplomas in 2017, up from 65 in 2013 when there were twice as many young people in the system.