This Week in Juvenile Justice: A Bipartisan Bill Passes in the House, Federal Budget Proposal Hurts

Act 4 Juvenile Justice, SparkAction
May 25, 2017

For those who care about juvenile justice and opportunities for young people, this week brought both good news and bad.

The good news: Congress took a big step towards a long-overdue reauthorizing of the nation’s key juvenile justice law.

On May 23, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation to strengthen and update the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), which sets standards and protections for state systems. Through funding and guidance, it also enables states to enact reforms proven to help young people get back on track and to improve community safety.

“The JJDPA represents a partnership between the federal government and states and localities to protect children and youth in the justice system,” according to Naomi Smoot Executive Director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and Co-chair of the Act4JJ Campaign.

The House decision “reaffirms Congress’ bipartisan commitment to this successful law,” Smoot added.

The bill, H.R. 1809, was introduced on April 4, 2017, by Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) and is co-sponsored by Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-MN) and 20 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives. During the voice vote, Representatives from both political parties gave testimony about why the JJDPA matters to young people and communities.

Now it’s up to the Senate to act. Its version of the bill, S. 860, has been introduced and is sponsored by Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), together with nine other bipartisan co-sponsors.


Mixed Messages from Washington

A budget proposal that puts children at risk.

Earlier on the same day, President Donald Trump released his 2018 federal budget proposal, “A New Foundation for American Greatness.” Overall, the proposed budget dramatically cuts discretionary funding and safety nets to vulnerable children and families.

Federal support of key juvenile justice programs has declined to the lowest levels in more than a decade, impacting states’ ability to serve youth. While cuts to federal juvenile justice programs have slowed in recent years, the President’s budget further reduces overall spending on juvenile justice from $273 million in FY17 to $229.5 million for FY18 (source: Justice.gov).

“The importance of the continued federal investment in children and families cannot be overstated,” said Marcy Mistrett, CEO at the Campaign for Youth Justice and Co-chair of the Act4JJ Coalition, “Over the past decade, this critical federal-state partnership on juvenile justice reform has helped states reduce our over-reliance on youth incarceration, support children in their homes, and communities, and invest in proven strategies that improve public safety. As a result, youth crime is at its lowest in four decades.”

While juvenile justice funding didn’t suffer the extent of cuts that other critical federal programs face, the overall budget proposal is cause for concern. Notably, the proposed budget cuts mentoring and re-entry services. The budget makes significant cuts to programs that help prevent children from coming into contact with the justice system.

The volume of budget cuts across a range of services and supports would mean a cumulative impact on children and young people.

In short: “This budget would threaten the progress that our nation has made on behalf of children and puts children at risk,” the ACT4JJ campaign said in a statement.

For more on the JJDPA, visit www.ACT4JJ.org.

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Act 4 Juvenile Justice (ACT4JJ) is a campaign of the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition (NJJDPC), which represents over 80 national organizations who work on youth development and juvenile justice issues. ACT4JJ is composed of juvenile justice, child welfare and youth development organizations advocating for the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) and increased federal funding for juvenile justice programs and services.

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