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Model Programs Guide Literature Review: Youths With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2017
10 pages

This literature review focuses on research related to intellectual and developmental disabilities of youths who are at risk of or have already become involved with the juvenile justice system.


Based on a review of the literature, there are four general types of disabilities common among youth in the juvenile justice system: intellectual, developmental, learning, and emotional disturbances. The definitions of these disabilities as used in the literature are outlined. Although estimates on the number of youths who are diagnosed with a disability vary by study, research indicates that there are many youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the juvenile justice system. Federal policies, such as the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are intended to promote equity in educational attainment among youths; however, the implementation of IDEA's provisions, which are designed for educational settings in the community, are more difficult to implement for youth in a confined, justice setting where coordination and ongoing communication between the juvenile justice system and the school system is necessary. Certain practices promote better outcomes for youths with disabilities in the juvenile justice system. These practices include early detection, specialized youth courts, positive behavioral support treatment, and increased intra-agency information sharing. More research is needed for the development of programs and services that can effectively address the specific needs of youths with disabilities in the juvenile justice system. 37 references

Date Published: May 1, 2017