Incarcerated Youth Literacy Project

PRE-PROPOSAL 1. Media Artifact

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

-Media artifact for my project/ proposal, entitled Incarcerated Youth Literacy Project.

    2. Persona and POV statement Persona: Persona name: Andre Smith Age: 16 years old School/occupation: Ypsilanti Community High School Location: Washtenaw County, MI   Quote: "I can't get ahead..."   About:
  • Loves to learn about technology and history.
  • With his mom in and out of jail and prison, he struggles with consistency in his life.
  • Is spending time in a detention center for robbing a drug store, and is worried that falling behind in his classes will keep him from graduating.
  • Continue education in jail at an equal level of rigor as in his high school. 
  • Return to high school after serving sentence, and remain in school.
  • Graduate from high school, and go to college.


POV Statement:
  • User: Andre, a creative and curious 16 year old, who loves to learn new things, and and wants to be a high school history teacher one day, was recently arrested and incarcerated for armed robbery......
  • Need: and needs a way to keep up with his school work while he is incarcerated....
  • Insightbut he lacks access to quality education, which is concerning, since then he will not be able re-enter into his school without difficulty and without recidivism, graduate, and pursue a career as a teacher.


3. Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1: Clearly defined education program requirements to be provided for incarcerated youth, with literacy to be used as a measure of program success. 

SOLUTION 2: Create a more streamlined system, in which social workers and school staff are able to intervene in the lives of at-risk youth, and potentially partner with jails and detention centers that hold youth to create prevention programs, and programs that to fight recidivism.

SOLUTION 3: Develop mentorship programs within more at-risk communities between youth who have spent time in jail or "juvie" and [young] adults who have been successful in graduating college after having difficulties while growing up, with the goal of developing positive relationships with role models in the community, and fostering accountability.



MCL 791.262d is a current Michigan law that relates to my proposal:

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan: 

This proposal will make a difference in the lives of all incarcerated would-be-students in the state of Michigan, because it will provide them with the opportunity to have consistent access to education, and it will reduce their risk of recidivism, which will allow for net benefits to students across Michigan. 

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

I had initially learned about the lack of sufficent access to education that incarcerated youth are burdened with during my time interning with the Washtenaw County Public Defender's Office last year. However, I was only exposed to the different solutions, and the extent to which the situation is preventable during my volunteer experience with a social worker (Jaeyong/Jae) and Ypsilanti Community High School. 

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

Working with Jae at YCHS has been imparative to the development of my proposal; from start to finish, Jae has offered contructive feedback on my ideas, and redirected my attention when needed. Beyond that, his insight has been integral to my thinking about the issue. In addition, my service activity has allowed me to speak with students who have spent time in jails and detention centers, which has helped me to develop my proposal, solutions, and the greater context of the issues, and the perspectives of those most impacted. 

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:



Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Jaeyong Cho (Social Worker at Ypsilanti Community High School): Jae was compelled by this proposal, however, he did raise an alternative solution, that being that there be more targetted intervention. He included that funding is an issue here, and that he is typically fifty-percent sucessful in keeping students from returning to jail, if he made aware of students at risk, or who have been in detention centers. 

CONSULTATION 2: D.E. (Student at Ypsilanti Community High School): This student, whose name I cannot release as per request, has been in and out of jail/detention centers. This student expressed great frustration with always being so behind in school, saying that this made him want to cut class more and more, and ultimately contributes to his bad behavior. He said if he could focus more on his course work while he's locked up, things might be different, and they would definitely be easier. He insisted that it would help him to stay out of jail. 

CONSULTATION 3: Ron Brown (Assistant Public Defender, Washtenaw County PD's Office): Ron has been working with the PD's office for the entirety of his legal career, and has worked on hundreds of 'juvie' cases. During this time, he has been able to interact with the youth within the environment in which they are detained. He spoke about how he had never really known of any defined education programming requirements that are enforced in the detention centers he is familiar with, at least. He expressed that there should be legal requirements as such, but warned that funding would be an issue. 


Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

The feedback that I received from Jillian, one of the TCs, was incredibily helpful, and greatly impacted not only my proposal, but also the manner in which I went about brainstorming, researching, and brainstorming solutions. Early on, Jillian advised me to slow things down in terms of working out solutions, so I better understand the context of the issue before launching into answers to questions I had yet to understand to the best of my ability.

In addition, Jillian helped me to realize some of the limitations in the POV statement, which then allowed me to address this as counterarguments components of my proposal. 

Finally, Jillian's feedback and advice was useful in terms of solutions, because it helped me to develop more specifics in relation to some 'weak-links' in my first two solutions. She was also very helpful in offering encouragment, and letting me know which aspects to focus on, such as the mentorship program.


Research process:

The research process for me began with an interest in some how combining my passion for criminal justice with my interest in education and accessibility. Most of my research included reading journal and news articles, along with legal opinions (all sources linked under the citation portion of this proposal). After this, I began reaching out to professionals I thought would be knowledgable about these issues, including Ron Brown. I also asked for feedback from my community of friends and family. My mother is an educator, so running my ideas by her was helpful, in that she offered unwithheld constructive criticism. In addition, discussions with others in the caucus was imparative to the development of my proposal. Others would point out things that did not make sense, or would bring up other articles, or perspectives I had not considered. In addition, after I started my service activity, I took detailed notes for research purposes, that greatly informed my proposal.

Author contributions:

Since I wrote this proposal alone, all work is original, and created by myself. 


The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

In the great state of Michigan, there is no specific legislative language that provides clear guidelines for the types and quality of education that must be provided to incarcerated youth. This perpetuates the issue, leaving many of these incarcerated youth far behind in classes, and less proficient in key subjects, and sets youth up to be affected by recidivism.

WHEREAS.... increasingly large numbers of youth are becoming incarcerated as 'school-aged' minors

WHEREAS.... these students are disproportionately minority and lower socioeconomic class youth

WHEREAS.... education can be one of the best interventionary variables/resources

WHEREAS... these students need ways to stay in school, but education in jails and detention centers is lacking.

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).


1. That legislation should clarify the definitions of the required educational programming that be provided to incarcerated students.

2. These clarifications should include language that requires the quality, and type of education programming provided in jails, prisons and detention centers housing youth to match the national, state, regional, and district requirements.

3. The success of this educational programming should be tested by administering grade-level based literacy tests.

4. If students are meeting these standards, programming can be determined adequate. If not, changes should be made accordingly. 


What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. Not all students may be invested in, and interested in continuing, their education. That is, they may not all have a desire to learn. 

2. Some students from poor home lives find a great deal of safety in detention centers, and will go voluntarily.

3. Due to outside factors in these students' lives, education as an intervention may not be effective in preventing recidivism.

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

This proposal should not cost more than the average "per-student" funding given to public schools by the state of Michigan: $7,000/student. This funding should come directly from the state, because this is what the state would be paying for these students to be in public schools, should they not be incarcerated. Thus, it would not be 'taking' funding from any programs or individuals.

Some may object to this, because they feel that any additional funding should go to 'law-abiding' citizens. However, the effects this proposal would likely have on recidivism would provide a net benefit to society, so this spending can be thought of as benefiting everyone.


References: Sources Used




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Total votes: 22