Back to blog

A Look at the Role of the Arts in Juvenile Justice

Date: 18 December 2019

On a given day 43,580 youths are held in residential placement facilities ― including any public or private out-of-home youth placement facility. Of the youths in residential placement, 1 in 3 do not attend school, and 1 in 2 participate in less than six hours of educational instruction a day. In addition, studies show that incarcerated youth experience educational barriers before they enter into the correctional system. Arts engagement, such as Creative Youth Development programming, may assist in narrowing the achievement gap and increasing equitable educational opportunities for justice-impacted youth.

This year, the Arts Education Partnership announced the addition of juvenile justice as a new focus area to its existing scope of work. Through increased funding support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Education, AEP will report on opportunities for the arts in juvenile justice at the community, state and federal levels. This new work will analyze existing research, policies, practices and programs; identify potential information gaps; and provide policy considerations related to the arts in education within this focus area.

Participating in the arts can have positive academic and personal effects for students. Arts engagement can help support present and future outcomes and success for youths, including increased civic engagement, pursuit of high school graduation and interest in college enrollment. Positive outcomes can occur both in and out of school, with findings showing decreased delinquent behavior and increased impacts for historically underserved students.

Nationally, the landscape for this work has expanded, including the work of the Create Justice initiative,  Creative Youth Development National Partnership and the Shakespeare in American Communities program. Over the next year, AEP will join its partner organizations and other stakeholders in contributing to this conversation by sharing more about the role of the arts in youth justice reforms. To ensure that this work remains comprehensive and topical, AEP looks forward to incorporating input from stakeholders across the arts, juvenile justice and education fields.

Please consider this an invitation to share your ideas, questions, resources and programs related to the arts and system-impacted youth.

We hope to hear from you soon!

Title: 2280 Pasos Bajo un Cielo Nublado | Artist: Hernán Jourdan | Medium: Film

When I was asked to create a work of art exploring literacy, I wanted to create a dance but I had no dancers or a studio, so I chose to use my own body in the space I had, my yard. Fluent Nature is video of micro-choreography that explores what cannot be expressed with words, how nature has its own language, and how placing the human body in nature changes the story.

Title: What Is Me and What Is Not Me | Artist: Alex Chadwell | Medium: Music

My thinking on arts and literacy centers around the concept of literacies and artmaking as both sense-making and meaning-making processes that organically and inevitably overlap, intersect, and reciprocate. Compositionally, What is me and what is not me is a sound collage of sorts (there is no notation for the piece, and I'd be hard pressed to recreate it accurately) that abstractly and aurally represents the relationships between literacies and artmaking.

Title: A Curious Honeybee | Artist: Gideon Young | Medium: Film

Offering welcome through traditional and digital elements of literacy, A Curious Honeybee provides an experiential learning environment by activating visual, musical, natural, and emotional literacies.

Title: Tercera Llamada | Artist: Karilú Forshee | Medium: Audio

La Carpa Theatre is a project that I am currently directing in the Detroit Latinx community. The project aims to strengthen and uplift youth voices through devised theatre, in the style of the Mexican Carpas. This audio was created in the theatrical environment envisioned for our project. The ways in which literacies are re-defined are at the heart of La Carpa Theatre's mission.

Title: Literaseas | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite and ink on paper with digital edits

Title: A Riddle | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits

Title: False Binaries | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits