Giving Compass' Take:

• Tara García Mathewson explains how Illinois is decreasing the population of their juvenile jails through access to education. 

• How can philanthropists help improve the education available in prisons? 

• Learn about the impacts of California's prison education system


By Marquell Brown’s count, he has been locked up “roughly 42 times” since 2009. He has been in state and county jails for a range of crimes, including nonviolent offenses like trespassing as well as more serious ones. In February, Brown had been out for six months and he called it a record.

Brown, now 21, vows he’s not going back to jail. “I’m using my mind,” he said.

Brown is one of a growing number of young people in Illinois who have earned a high school diploma from School District 428, run by the state’s department of juvenile justice. At the same time that the state has been locking up fewer kids each year — “right-sizing” its juvenile justice population, according to an official strategic plan— District 428 has been awarding more credits and handing out more diplomas to those incarcerated.

According to state data, the number of young people in state juvenile justice facilities dropped from 901 at the end of 2012 to 386 in 2017. That’s a more precipitous decline than seen in the national numbers, which are moving in the same direction.

Sophia Jones-Redmond, superintendent of the district, which serves students from ages 13 to 21, said that a blended-learning model has been a major factor in this success. While teachers still provide some instruction, students also get to take classes online, and they have the option of moving through the coursework at a faster pace than traditional school schedules allow.

Read the full article about education for kids in juvenile jails by Tara García Mathewson at The Hechinger Report.