- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday unveiled new guidance aimed at improving the quality of education for roughly 60,000 confined juveniles.

The cabinet secretaries released a Correctional Education Guidance Package while touring a school for confined youth in Northern Virginia. Duncan and Holder said that improving quality education for all offenders - but particularly younger ones - has proven to be one of the best methods for preventing returns to prison.

“Students in juvenile justice facilities need a world-class education and rigorous coursework to help them successfully transition out,” Duncan said in a statement.

Young people shouldn’t fall off track “for life, just because they come into contact with the justice system,” he said.

The package sets guiding principles for improving education for young people in correctional facilities and emphasizes the states’ obligations for educating students with disabilities in those facilities. It also clarifies that juveniles in correctional facilities may be eligible for federal Pell Grants if they meet other criteria.

The program is an outgrowth of President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative.

That program was launched from the White House to deal with gaps in opportunities for young minorities. A “My Brother’s Keeper” task force released a report in May recommending that work be done to “reform the juvenile and criminal justice systems to reduce unnecessary interactions for youth and to enforce the rights of incarcerated youth to a quality education.”

Holder said achieving the latter part was the goal of the plans released on Monday.

“We hope and expect this guidance will offer a roadmap for enhancing these young people’s academic and social skills, and reducing the likelihood of recidivism,” Holder said in a statement.

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