The assessment records etailing the reading and spelling performance of a group of male juvenile justice detainees admitted over a 3-month period were examined in an attempt to quantify the basic literacy levels of juvenile offenders. Results of student self-ratings of their reading ability were also analysed. The participants comprised 68 males on remand within a secure care facility in New South Wales. The results showed, contrary to expectations, that a large percentage of detainees appeared to have attained functional literacy but that their spelling achievement levels were low, however. Detainees' self-ratings correlated with their reading test scores, indicating a realistic appraisal of their reading levels.