Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Wendy Kliewer


Despite recent drops in rates, juvenile incarceration remains a serious issue in the United States (Hockenberry, 2013; Mendel, 2011). One shared part of the incarceration experience across different systems and facility types is the obligation for juvenile offenders to receive correctional education. Ample research demonstrates that increased academic achievement, attending community school, and being employed are connected to better community outcomes and desistance, yet little is known about how school experiences in the facility influences these outcomes. Applying life-course theory of the development of crime (Sampson & Laub, 1997, 2005), the present study investigates whether correctional education serves as a turning point to influence a number of community adjustment outcomes in serious juvenile offenders. Specifically, it tested how subjective (teacher bonding and school orientation) and objective (grades, time spent in the facility school) parts of the school experience during the facility stay were related to transitioning to community schools (attendance), and/or work (gainful activity and employment), self-reported delinquency, and staying in the community at 6 and 12 months after release for a sample of 519 male and 50 female serious juvenile offenders. Results showed

that across juvenile and adult facilities, improved attachment to the facility school while incarcerated predicted increased involvement in gainful activity and decreases in self-reported delinquency up to 12 months after release. This positive effect was greatest for younger offenders who returned to school, even when accounting for the number of previous facility stays and prior community school experiences. Conversely, older offenders who returned to gainful employment showed less positive adjustment. In contrast to other studies, grades received while incarcerated were not a significant predictor of community adjustment. Overall, the results repeatedly show behavioral differences based on individual history and experiences during incarceration across different types of facilities, strongly supporting a research agenda that treats incarceration as more than a binary variable. The present results add to the corpus of evidence that the perspective of the incarcerated juveniles matter and suggest that the school experience while incarcerated can serve as an important turning point, indicating resources should be directed towards enhancing juveniles’ school orientation and relationships with teachers.


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