U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Addressing the Needs of Youth with Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System: The Current State of Knowledge

NCJ Number
Daniel P. Mears; Laudan Y. Aron
Date Published
November 2003
138 pages
This report summarizes and analyzes current knowledge regarding youth with disabilities who are either at risk of entering, or have already entered, the juvenile justice system.
The goal of the report is to examine a range of multi-disciplinary and interrelated issues regarding what is known about children with disabilities who are at risk of delinquency and involvement with the juvenile justice system. As such, no new data or trends are analyzed; rather, a broad-based foundation of knowledge is provided that includes research and insights from service providers, administrators, policymakers, advocates, and researchers. After defining what is meant by “disability” and “delinquency,” the report focuses on several different groups of children and youth with disabilities, including those who have never committed a delinquent act but are considered at risk for doing so; those who have engaged in delinquent acts but have yet to become involved with the juvenile justice system; and those who are or have been involved with the juvenile justice system. Data for the report include a review of empirical research, interviews with knowledgeable stakeholders, and case studies of particular programs. The results of the review and interviews fall into seven main categories, and the report is organized accordingly. Chapter 4 begins the results section and discusses current laws and philosophical frameworks. Chapter 5 analyzes what is meant by disability, delinquency, and the current state of juvenile justice for youth with disabilities. Chapter 6 analyzes the risk and protective factors associated with delinquency, while chapter 7 looks at program and policy trends. Chapter 8 recounts promising practices and the measurement criteria used for analyzing the effectiveness of such practices. Chapter 9 focuses on the implementation of disability law and programs, especially the challenges to effective implementation as well as facilitators of successful implementation. The final chapter of the results section, chapter 10, offers recommendations for “next steps” toward effective practices and juvenile justice strategies for youth with disabilities. These recommendations include increasing research on the extent and impacts of enforcing disability law in regards to disabled juvenile delinquents, as well as identifying strategies to enforce and promote compliance with disability law. Increased funding to schools and the juvenile justice system is called for to ensure that youth with disabilities receive needed and appropriate services. Figures, tables, references