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How does the justice system treat juveniles with disabilities?

When the special education system fails minors they often end up incarcerated. Although youth with disabilities are underrepresented in the general population, they are much more likely to be sent to detention and incarceration facilities. At least one third of youthful offenders arrested have a disability. Some researchers argue that it is as high as 70 percent. These incarcerated minors have anything from emotional to learning disabilities.

Minors with emotional disabilities are often aggressive, impulsive, and cannot always judge situations appropriately, and that is what gets them in trouble. Youth with learning disabilities also land in jail because they dislike school, get bored, and act up. In general kids with disabilities do not get enough support and counseling at school and find themselves in trouble.

The justice system gives special consideration to those with disabilities

Having a disability will not be an excuse to a minor's delinquent behavior; however it does have a huge impact on a minor's ability to judge. Therefore youth with diagnosed learning disabilities are given special consideration.

There are due process protections for youthful offenders with disabilities. Disciplinary removal from school for more than 10 days requires the school district to review the youth's functional behavioral assessment and behavioral implementation plan. A court will consider lesser sentences or alternative placements. Judges will often advocate for a child with a disability but they will need all the appropriate information from parents and the school district.

These safeguards can also be applied to kids who have not been officially diagnosed with a disability. The school may recommend their assessment of the child's disability status in writing if there are indications that the minor has a disability. Know that parents can participate in all records reviews, meetings, and proceedings, mediation, placement of their child.

How parents can help in the process

Parents should stay involved in every step in order to better the outcome for their kid. One of the most important steps in the juvenile court system is when the minor is first brought into custody or detention. It's important to make sure that the police and all involved officials are aware that the minor has a disability. Coordinate with officials and the school for the best outcome. Court personnel should be trained on how to properly interview kids and their families, where to find appropriate services, and placement facilities.

Once court proceedings have started, coordination with the school district is still important. If there is any indication that the child has a disability but has not been officially diagnosed with a disability, then it's important to push for an evaluation. Kids who have not had their disability properly identified are at a higher risk for juvenile court referral.

Kids with disabilities are protected by the law

Minors with disabilities are protected by government laws both inside and out of the system. Disabled persons protected under the Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA) and the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). The ADA requires that proper public accommodations for those with disabilities, including all federally funded programs. The CRIPA does authorize the U.S. Attorney General to investigate conditions of confinement in institutions, including juvenile detention centers. Unfortunately the tool is not often used.

Once inside a juvenile detention center kids with disabilities are required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to receive appropriate special education. This act also requires proper behavioral assessments and transitional planning.

If your child has a disability and is facing charges then it is best to have an attorney at your side. An experienced attorney can help reduce a sentence and petition for incarceration alternatives.

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