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Serving Justice-Involved Youth with Disabilities (2020)

Disability is an important intersectional identity in juvenile justice trends. Youth with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, and mental health disabilities are more likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system or multiple systems, and intersecting identities can increase the risk of justice involvement, particularly when disability overlaps with other identities associated with higher rates of discipline or justice involvement, such as race and lower socioeconomic status. This points to the importance of practitioners being aware of personal and systemic barriers that may influence youths’ experiences and outcomes related to key transition points. Youth with disabilities often require more intense and individualized services during and after justice involvement, and overall have poor post-release education and employment outcomes. Many youth experience challenges in obtaining resources and navigating multiple systems, necessitating additional transition support as they pursue life outcomes. Locating and reaching out to justice-involved youth with disabilities served by multiple systems is a known challenge. Success in this area requires strong collaborations between state and local government agencies, and the community partners and stakeholders who support youth upon release. In this policy brief, the authors discuss barriers and evidence-based practices in locating, serving, and supporting justice-involved youth with disabilities, focusing on efforts to re-engage youth with their former setting (school, home, and community), while also preparing them for future education, employment, independent living, and reducing the risk of recidivism through appropriate resources, services, and supports.

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