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Disaggregate: Justice involvement


Individuals who have interacted with the justice system in any capacity

Why it matters

Being arrested, even if an individual ultimately is not convicted of a crime, can result in emotional and psychological trauma, as well as missed school and work opportunities. More than one-quarter of justice-involved youth drop out of school within six months of being released from juvenile justice facilities, and only 15 percent of students released from juvenile detention in 9th grade graduate high school within four years. Justice-involved adults also face dire labor market prospects: according to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, one-third of formerly incarcerated individuals in the study population remained unemployed for four years after their release from prison.

What to know about measurement

There is no single definition of justice involvement used across sectors. Our suggested definition, which draws on the Institute for Higher Education Policy’s Higher Education in Prison Key Performance Indicator Framework, is intentionally broad. At the K–12 level, schools may coordinate with the juvenile justice system to provide support to students reentering school after being in detention and those under probation supervision, given that attending school is a common requirement for youth on probation. At the postsecondary level, students under incarceration or with certain types of criminal convictions can have limited eligibility for federal student aid and face other challenges (though as of the 2022–2023 award year, incarcerated students will no longer be ineligible for federal Pell Grants). Though some localities and states have banned employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history, the U.S. Department of Labor continues to track this information for program participants. We recommend collecting information on justice involvement only to identify individuals who need additional support from E-W systems—for example, during reentry into school, college, or the workforce. This information should not be used for exclusionary or discriminatory purposes, and every effort should be made to protect and respect individuals’ privacy.

Source frameworks

This disaggregate appeared in four source frameworks reviewed for this report: the Dimensions of Equity framework, the Institute for Higher Education Policy’s Higher Education in Prison Key Performance Indicator Framework, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reporting requirements, and the Urban Institute’s Boosting Upward Mobility framework.


The framework's recommendations are based on syntheses of existing research. Please see the framework report for a list of works cited.

This website was funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.