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Hoping to Reduce Recidivism, Maryland Introduces Tech to Juvenile Facilities

Juvenile offenders in Maryland are entitled by law to receive the same education as their peers in public schools; introducing tablet devices in these facilities is a step toward ensuring equality.

by Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun / August 25, 2016

(TNS) -- Maryland's juvenile facilities will see an increase in technology in classrooms as part of an ongoing effort to improve the long-beleaguered education system for young offenders.

The Maryland State Department of Education announced this week that 300 tablet devices will be available to youths detained in the state's 13 juvenile facilities. Officials say the new equipment will help provide "enhanced instruction" and boost student engagement.

"By improving student access to state-of-the-art resources, we can accelerate student achievement and prepare students for a successful transition to their community," Maryland State Superintendent Karen Salmon said in a release.

State officials said staff from Talbot County Public Schools trained juvenile services teachers how to use apps on the devices for educational programs and group lessons, the release said.

The announcements comes amid a multi-year effort to overhaul the education system for the state's juvenile offenders – who are entitled by law to receive the same education as their peers in public schools.

In December, a Baltimore Sun investigation detailed a decade of failure by the state department of education to educate youths who cycled through the juvenile justice system.

The state transferred control of the schools from the Department of Juvenile Services to the education department in 2004. The schools have been chronically underfunded and understaffed since that change.

Just last year, advocates and youths described the schools as "warehouses with worksheets" where many youths veered off the graduation track or fell further behind in their studies.

The Maryland State Conference of the NAACP filed a federal complaint with the Office of Civil Rights and the Justice Department on behalf of students in the state's juvenile justice education programs. Many of those students are black and need special education services.

The Juvenile Services Education Program received a $3 million increase in this year's state budget, and state education officials are implementing a two-year strategic plan that includes increasing staff, resources and training.

Salmon, who spent a decade as the superintendent in Talbot County and briefly oversaw the schools in the Juvenile Services Education Program before she was appointed state superintendent, has said that among her top priorities is to increase technological resources in the schools as a way to improve outcomes for the roughly 550 youth offenders the department is serving.

©2016 The Baltimore Sun Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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