New Lawsuit Alleges New York City Jails Flout Young People’s Legal Right to Education

Jail House

A recent lawsuit accuses New York City jails of flagrantly denying young people their legal right to education, in direct violation of court orders mandating educational access for incarcerated individuals.

Filed by the Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project, the lawsuit alleges that the city has failed to comply with a 2016 federal court order requiring a minimum of three hours of educational services per day for incarcerated youth aged 18 to 21.

According to the plaintiffs, the Department of Correction has restricted access to education, informing inmates that they can only receive educational services if housed in specific facilities.

This practice contradicts the court order and effectively denies many young inmates their right to education.

Lauren Stephens-Davidowitz, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society, described the situation as both a legal and moral failing.

She highlighted the efforts of incarcerated youth who are eager to obtain their high school diplomas while in custody but are being unjustly denied this opportunity.

The lawsuit builds upon a decades-long class-action suit originally filed in 1996, which alleged that the city’s Department of Correction and Department of Education failed to provide education to eligible young people in custody.

Despite a court order issued in 2016, which mandated access to education for incarcerated youth, plaintiffs argue that the city has failed to uphold these requirements.

Stefen Short, a supervising attorney with the Prisoners’ Rights Project, criticized the Department of Correction for hindering inmates’ access to education, which he views as essential for their rehabilitation and successful reintegration into society.

Short emphasized the proven benefits of education for incarcerated individuals, noting that obtaining a high school diploma increases their prospects for success upon release.

While the Department of Correction has recently received additional funding for programming, including educational services, concerns persist regarding the equitable distribution of these resources.

The plaintiffs are calling for the appointment of a new court monitor to oversee the implementation of the 2016 court order and ensure that incarcerated youth receive the educational opportunities to which they are legally entitled.

The lawsuit underscores the critical importance of education for incarcerated youth and seeks to hold New York City jails accountable for their failure to uphold students’ legal rights.