CPS testimony supporting H.525: “An Act to ensure educational rights are upheld for incarcerated youth”

Testimony to the Joint Committee on Education in Support of H.515

June 6, 2023 

Dear Chair Garlick, Chair Lewis, and members of the Joint Committee on Education,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony in support of “An Act to ensure educational rights are upheld for incarcerated youth” (H.515). I am Lisa Guisbond, Executive Director of Citizens for Public Schools, a statewide public education advocacy organization. CPS’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect public schools and public education. We also work to further education justice and to expose and dismantle barriers to educational opportunity and equity. 

On behalf of our Board of Directors, I am writing to enthusiastically support this bill’s goal of ensuring that youth, age 18-22, incarcerated in adult correctional facilities, have access to the educational services they need and to which they are legally entitled. This includes high school, special education, higher education and/or vocational education. 

The evidence is overwhelming that access to education reduces recidivism. Yet there are a number of other strong reasons why we should care and ensure that incarcerated young people are educated. First and foremost, education is a fundamental human right. A young person who commits a crime should not give up this right along with their freedom. 

Second, we know that longstanding inequities such as inadequate funding, school discipline policies like suspensions and expulsions and other barriers to educational access put many young people on the path to incarceration, the so-called school-to-prison pipeline. The impact of these policies fall disproportionately on students of color and those with learning disabilities. 

If we are to embrace the goal of racial justice, as we must, then passing this bill is a significant way to make progress toward that goal. We may not be able to undo the past injustices that led these young people to their circumstances, but we can commit to provide services they should have received in the first place. 

Finally, like all young people, incarcerated youth have the potential to learn and grow and develop their talents so that when they do rejoin society, they are capable of contributing to our society and can live productive and fulfilling lives. It is our duty to do whatever is in our power to help make that possible. 

Thank you for considering our testimony.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at lisa@citizensforpublicschools.org.


Lisa Guisbond

Executive Director

Citizens for Public Schools