A bill to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act was introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.
Juvenile justice programs across the nation have been fearful of losing their funding. In May the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies proposed defunding the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the central office that provides technical assistance and funds to state and local programs.
“We have seen the positive results some states have had from investing in alternatives to incarceration and secure detention,” said Scott, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, at a press conference today. Evidence shows that these policies reduce crime and save money, he said.
His bill, the Youth Justice Act of 2015, is based on a bipartisan bill (S. 2999) introduced in the Senate in December by Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. They reintroduced a new bill in support of reauthorization on May 1.
“The Youth Justice Act builds on the strong framework of our colleagues in the Senate, and takes suggestions from our nation’s leading juvenile justice advocates on how we can make our system even safer and more responsive to our youth,” Scott said.
The act reauthorizes the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, which has not been reauthorized since 2002. It is the one federal law that sets national standards for the care of youth in the juvenile justice system.
Rep. Karen Bass, D.-Calif., is among the co-sponsors.
“We need to look at why the system is punishing girls more harshly for ‘crimes’ like truancy, running away, curfew violations, incorrigibility or underage drinking,” Bass said. “We must stop handing out harsh sentences for small offenses.”
Girls are increasingly part of the juvenile justice population, the sponsors said in a statement.
Young people of color are disproportionately represented — they account for 71 percent of youth held in detention, the statement said.
The Youth Justice Act mandates states to take specific steps to address the disproportion at each point that juveniles are in contact with the system. The bill also focuses on education, safety and prevention.
Additional sponsors are Reps. Cedric Richmond, D-La.; Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas; and Tony Cardenas, D-Calif.
“We know that supporting programs that keep our children out of jail is one of the best investments we can make,” said Richmond, who represents a large part of the city of New Orleans.