Act 4 Juvenile Justice Mobilizing Toolkit

JJDPA matters
Act 4 Juvenile Justice
January 1, 2016

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Download this online toolkit here for easy sharing. 

What is the JJDPA?

General Background

This information is useful for context and can be incorporated in media pitches and op-eds/LTEs as well.

Since 1974, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) has provided direction and support for state juvenile justice system improvements and has significantly contributed to the reduction of juvenile crime and delinquency. 

Most recently reauthorized in 2002 with bipartisan support, this landmark law provides critical federal funding to states that comply with a set of best practices designed to protect children from the dangers of adult jails and lockups; keep status offenders out of locked custody; and address the disproportionate treatment of youth of color in the justice system.  The law also calls on states to make use of research-based effective practices and programs to reduce reliance on incarceration, to implement effective, community-based alternatives and to help youth get their lives back on track.

This year marks the 41st anniversary of the JJDPA, which is currently more than eight years overdue for reauthorization.  The continuing success of effective juvenile crime prevention and deterrence depends on Congress strengthening the provisions of the JJDPA and providing the resources needed for states and localities to implement the law and related programs.

Main Messages and Supporting Points

Use these for messaging and to craft op-eds, feel free to customize. Please consider your audience (more policy-specific messaging for elected officials, more “general information” for allies, constituents and young people). In either case, avoid jargon.

Message Point: JJDPA protects kids and promotes safer communities.

  • The federal support provided by the JJDPA is essential in ensuring that state juvenile justice programs provide young people with the supports they need for successful rehabilitation and re-entry into their communities.
  • Federal support helps states decrease the number of young people incarcerated in costly and dangerous adult facilities where they are placed at severe risk of suicide, physical and sexual abuse, recidivism and a lifetime of disconnection from education and work.
  • Keeping kids out of the criminal justice system is safer for our communities.  Research shows that once youth are detained, they are more likely to reoffend or become involved in the adult criminal justice system.

For more information see: ACT4JJ Resources & Quick Facts

Message Point: JJDPA needs to be updated to reflect new developments in the field.

  • The JJDPA was last reauthorized by Congress in 2002. That means it does not reflect many of the exciting new developments in the field, including new adolescent brain science research; the cost-effectiveness and improved outcomes from trauma-informed, community-based approaches; and what we know works to address the needs of youth of color and girls.
  • By reauthorizing the JJDPA to reflect new developments in the field, Congress will incentivize states to enact bold, evidence-based reform efforts with public money.

For more information see:  Implementing Juvenile Justice Reform: The Federal Role

Message Point: Failure to Reauthorize the JJDPA Compromises the Quality of Juvenile Justice in the States.

  • The JJDPA needs to be updated to ensure adequate federal funding to protect our children, ensure fairness, provide appropriate treatment and services, and increase public safety.
  • The JJDPA’s funding streams have been systematically depleted for more than a decade. Since the law was last updated in 2002, federal appropriation levels have dropped by more than 80 percent.
  • States have been forced to stretch ever-shrinking federal dollars to fund effective programs for youth and to monitor compliance with the four core protections of the JJDPA: separating youth from adult inmates, removing them from adult jails and lockups, and not locking up non-delinquent offenders. This has put a severe burden on states; failure in either area—creating and running effective programs and monitoring compliance—is bad for youth and bad for communities.

For more information see: ACT4JJ Resources & Quick Facts and Funding in the States

Message Point: JJDPA is Cost-Effective

  • Research shows that young people can be safely and successfully supported in their communities for a lot less than it costs to lock them up.
  • Estimates suggest that community-based programs cost $75 per day in contrast to $241 per day for incarcerating a young person.   In one study, more than 8 out of 10 young people remained arrest-free and 9 out of 10 were at home after completing their community-based program, at a cost that is a fraction of what it would have taken to incarcerate these youth. 

Message Point: There is Bipartisan Support for Reauthorizing the JJDPA

  • In April 2015, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D- RI) co-sponsored S.1169, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2015.  The bill has strong bipartisan support, including Senators Blumenthal (D-CT), Blunt (R-MO), Coons (D-DE), Cornyn (R-TX), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Hatch (R-UT), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), and Rubio (R-FL).
  • S. 1169 was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 23rd with support from both sides of the aisle and we call on the full Senate and House to approve the bill this year. For more information see: JJDPA in the 114thCongress.
  • S. 1169 is supported by a range of organizations representing everyone from law enforcement and prosecutors to judges and correctional officials to educators and mental health professionals to families and youth.  For a list of national, state, and local endorsing organizations see here.


Action Alerts

Please contact your Senator to urge a full and swift passage of S.1169—it’s easy to do with Act4JJ’s three-step action alert. All you need is your zip code, and the alert system will identify Senators and give you a template with talking points to create your letter. Use social media to encourage your friends and networks to send their own messages.

Bitly link:  
Widget code for easy embedding on your website: <iframe src="" frameborder="0" scrolling="auto" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" height="1200" width="100%"></iframe>
Plugin Code to embed the alert on your website: <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script> <div id="engage-plugin-92502"></div>


Sample Social Media Posts

See below for shareable images. Whenever possible include an image in your post to engage target audiences.

Bitly link: (to the blog), (to the action center)

Our Hashtags:

  • #JJDPAMatters, #juvenilejustice, #justinvest

Other good hashtags to follow and engage with:  

  • #EndYouthSolitary, #youthjustice, #investinkids Tweets:

  • We can’t wait another year before we get smart on youth justice. The Senate should vote in favor of S.1169 #JJDPAMatters
  • Support our children and communities, tell the Senate to vote in favor of S.1169 #JJDPAMatters   Sample Facebook Posts:

  • Over a decade of research and stories have confirmed what we already know – the treatment of juvenile offenders is a national issue that requires strong safeguards and protections. For 41 years, the JJDPA has helped states build systems that protect kids and promote public safety. We can’t wait another year before we get smart on youth justice. The Senate should vote in favor of S.1169 #JJDPAMatters
  • The JJDPA is an essential piece of legislation to protect children as they grow into our next generation of adults and community members. The changes proposed in S.1169 keep what’s working while integrating new knowledge, providing new essential supports, and strengthening accountability and equity. Support our children and communities, tell the Senate to vote in favor of S.1169 #JJDPAMatters

Shareable Images




Click each image for full-size. Or, click here to see all at full size.
We can customize them to any state/speaker. Contact:

"Take Action" Templates

Letter to the Editor

Writing a Letter to the Editor of a local news outlet can be an effective way to communicate to your community and your elected officials.  Below is a basic template that you can customize. Tip: Your LTE is more likely to be published if you start by responding to a recent article or a local event. Always check the outlet’s requirements for length and tone. For more tips, visit SparkAction’s Letter to the Editor/Op-Ed Guide.


[ORGANIZATION] applauds Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA)and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)  for the introduction of a S. 1169 to reauthorize and strengthen the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act of 1974 (JJDPA).

Despite a continuing decline in youth delinquency, more than 60,000 young people are held in detention centers awaiting trial or confined by the courts in juvenile facilities in the U.S.  We know that locking kids up is expensive and it doesn’t help them or make our communities safer. For these confined youth [including XX in OUR STATE], and the many more kids at-risk of involvement in the justice system, the JJDPA and programs it supports are critical to making sure kids get what they need to get back on track.

More than eight years overdue for reauthorization, the JJDPA is the only federal statute that sets out national standards for the custody and care of youth in the juvenile justice system and provides direction and support for common-sense state juvenile justice system improvements.

The bill is both cost effective and the morally right thing to do. We are grateful for this bi-partisan effort to pass common-sense juvenile justice reform and urge for swift passage in Congress.


Kudos to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for their bi-partisan work introducing S. 1169, common-sense legislation to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).

First passed in 1974, the JJDPA is the only federal statute that sets out national standards for the custody and care of youth in the juvenile justice system and provides direction and support for state juvenile justice system improvements.  It is an important law that is long overdue for a Congressional update.  We now have a decade of evidence that treatment-focused, community-based approaches work—they are cost-effective and result in better outcomes for kids and communities. 

This new proposal reflects that research and we urge Congress to approve the bill this year.

Take Action Postcard

The following can be used to create a postcard to hand out at an event   - feel free to use one or both of the images on the front side of the postcard (print using double-sided settings). High-res versions of the images are here. For help, contact




Dear Senator _______________,


As your constituent, I urge you to cosponsor S.1169, the bipartisan bill that will reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).

For more than 40 years, the JJDPA has supported kids and helped reduce juvenile crime and delinquency. The JJDPA has given young people the tools for successful rehabilitation and re-entry into their communities, and has helped decrease the number of youth incarcerated in dangerous facilities where they are at severe risk of suicide, abuse, recidivism, and a lifetime of disconnection from education and work.

In short, the JJDPA has worked. Please cosponsor its reauthorization.


Print Name:              


City, State & Zip:   


JJDPA Matters Blog

Please sign up to blog, or share your existing JJDPA-related blogs with us for the #JJDPAmatters Blog.


You may repost any of these blogs on your site. Please include this hyperlinked image (to and copy in the footer:

This post is part of the JJDPA Matters blog, a project of the Act4JJ Campaign with help from SparkAction. 

The JJDPA, the nation's landmark juvenile justice law, is up for reauthorization. As legislative changes are being made to bring this law up-to-date, Act4JJ member organizations and allies will post blogs on issues related to the JJDPA. To learn more and take action in support of JJDPA, visit the Act4JJ JJDPA Matters Action Center, powered by SparkAction.


Calendar: Dates of Note & Advocacy Hooks

December 2015

  • Dec. 21      Congress begins recess (working at home, a good time to connect with your elected officials locally!)

January 2016

  • National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
  • Act4JJ Blog Carnival -- Stay Tuned!
  • Jan. 5   U.S. House back in session
  • Jan. 11 Human Trafficking Awareness Day
  • Jan. 12 State of the Union address
  • Jan. 18 MLK National Day of Service


Online Resources

  • Shareable social media images/memes are available in high-resolution are here.

_ _ _

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