Analysis: Former Juvenile Lifers Cite Strengths and Weaknesses of Reentry Preparation



Juvenile Justice Information Exchange: Charlotte West | March 25, 2022


Almost all of 112 Philadelphians who have been released from lifetime prison sentences said they participated in some form of prison programming, but 53 percent reported having been restricted from vocational programs such as barbering (Pennsylvania prioritizes people who have less than five years left on their sentences for vocational training). Sixteen percent of those former juvenile lifers mentioned college credit courses when asked what programs they were shut out from.


Those were among the findings in a recently published policy brief on the reentry experiences of juvenile lifers in Philadelphia, which has the highest number of juvenile lifers in the country, according to researchers at Montclair State University in New Jersey, who authored the brief. Researchers also concluded that 82 percent of those surveyed participated in GED classes and 40 percent had some college programming.


“A lot of these guys who did end up taking advantage of the college programming were able to enroll through their perseverance as opposed to these programs being allocated for them,” said study co-author Tarika Daftary-Kapur, professor of justice studies at Montclair State University in New Jersey, which conducted the survey.


Roughly 80 percent of those surveyed Philadelphians who, as juveniles, were sentenced to life in prison had been suspended from school at least once and about half had been expelled before they were incarcerated. Sixty-four percent reported earning poor grades in school, researchers found.


Additionally, researchers wrote, 63 percent were raised in a household headed by one parent; 69 percent were physically disciplined at home; and 63 percent had experienced poverty.


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