How the JJDPA Helps States Improve Youth Justice

March 11, 2019

States across the country are starting to introduce legislation that mirrors the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), which was reauthorized for the first time in almost 16 years in December 2018. The JJDPA garnered strong bipartisan support and remains the single most influential piece of federal legislation with core protections for youth who have come into contact with the juvenile justice system.



This spring, Congressional appropriators will begin work to set funding levels for the upcoming fiscal year. States across the country are already using JJDPA funds to support important programs and approaches to reform juvenile justice systems and create more equitable conditions for youth, including prevention programs and alternatives to incarceration.


Read on to find out how funds from the JJDPA are creating positive change in states, and how further funding could continue to expand these and similar initiatives.





In Alabama, JJDPA funding has been used to support diversion programs for truant youth and to support mentorship between youth and law enforcement. The Dallas County Truancy Intervention Program helps get to root causes of truancy and support students to get back on track. For example, Sam Jones, a Truancy Intervention Specialist, recalls one student who had already reached six unexcused absences early in the school year. Jones said he “was able to speak to the County truancy officer and made him aware of the situation and the truancy officer met with the family and discovered that there were health issues. This family was able to excuse some of the absences and avoid being referred to Juvenile Probation for truancy.”


In Marvel City, Alabama, Officer Lakeisha Atkins said that, with the help of funding through Title II of the JJDPA, they were able to create the Marvel City Youth Program. Officer Atkins says “[t]he goal of the program is to reduce the risks and enhance the protective factors that prevent youth from reentering the juvenile justice system. It strives to facilitate and encourage community-wide efforts in combating the associated factors of at-risk youth by the following measures: improving prosocial behavior, discouraging drug and alcohol use, and improving access to community resources and positive adult mentors. It allows participants to interact with law enforcement community, broadening their perception, appreciation and adherence to the law….”




California's State Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention currently works with 18 sub-grantees who receive Title II funding to help transform California’s juvenile justice system. For example, the Fresno County Probation Department received Title II funds to enhance its current reentry transition services by implementing the Planned ReEntry Program (PREP) project. With this funding, PREP plans to add two components to the department's recidivism reduction efforts: a social work element to support the development of individual, achievable reentry case plans, and counseling to address coping skills and family issues; and a Parent Partner piece to provide both in-custody and post-custody support for families of targeted youth. The addition of the PREP project will provide for systematic and coordinated reentry support services for youth released from the Fresno County's Juvenile Justice Campus.




Hawaii has utilized funding through the JJDPA to launch alternative detention, probation, and diversion programs for youth in order to prevent youth from entering or going deeper into the juvenile justice system.




Maryland invests JJDPA funding into programs that help the state save money in the long run, including using funding to assist with diverting youth from entering the system and from going deeper into the system. JJDPA funding has also helped the state to provide necessary trainings to grantees and advisory group members to ensure providers are providing trauma-informed care and approaching work with an equity lens.




Title II funds have allowed Maine to begin expanding restorative practices throughout the state and complete a careful examination of their juvenile correctional facility. Title II funding has allowed the state to support many smaller efforts to improve direct services to youth and families. For example, the State Advisory Group has provided training to several probation officers regarding responding effectively to youth who are victims of sex trafficking. With Title II funding, Maine has also been able to execute both large systems improvements and improve direct service to youth.




Missouri uses Title II for three main areas: (1) statewide expansion of juvenile detention alternatives; (2) gender-specific activities; and (3) addressing racial and ethnic disparities. The state has reduced the use of detention and developed alternatives making decisions based on a standardized assessment. The funds have also been used to develop programs to meet the needs of girls and gender nonconforming youth. Title II funds have also allowed the state to create community teams to develop local plans to reduce the disproportionate number of minority youth at various points of contact in targeted communities.




New Hampshire uses federal funds to support activities and programs to address racial and ethnic disparities in their juvenile justice system. Given the minimal amount of funding the state has received over the last few years, any increase in funding would allow the State Advisory Group to support funding in areas throughout the state, as well as fund other program purpose areas that will complement the current efforts to address and reduce racial and ethnic disparities.




New York uses their Title II dollars to support nine Regional Youth Justice Teams, which bring professionals together across disciplines and counties to work cohesively on juvenile justice reform issues. The Division of Criminal Justice Services coordinates these local and regional juvenile justice system improvement efforts. Advisory Group grants have supported data improvement, needs assessment, and strategic planning activities to improve community responses to justice-involved youth and their families. Regional approaches and practices are shared with other regions and counties to promote best practices. Furthermore, funding supported the Youth Empowerment Academy, which trained justice-involved youth in how to run focus groups on systems improvements. Trained youth ran four focus groups across the state and issued a report on their findings.




The Ohio Governor’s Council on Juvenile Justice uses JJDPA funding to provide opportunities for young people to rehabilitate and properly re-enter the general population with the necessary social skills and cultural capital to thrive. Without proper resources to guide them down this path of rehabilitation, the Council knows that recidivism is much more probable. Title II funds provide the best opportunity for the state’s struggling youth.




Funding through the JJDPA has been critical in supporting Pennsylvania's juvenile justice system reform efforts and advancing evidence-based programs and practices at the local level. For nearly four decades, Pennsylvania's efforts under the JJDPA have focused on ensuring the safe and fair processing and treatment of its children and adolescents. The Commonwealth also has a proud history of full compliance with the Act's Core Protections. Projects funded by the JJDPA have, to date, trained 425 officers in 67 counties (or roughly 31 percent of 1,350 juvenile probation officers) in evidence-based, effective, cutting edge approaches to working with delinquent youth in ways that are equitable, fair, and targeted to their risks and needs as identified by a standardized and validated assessment instrument. Further federal cuts under the JJDPA will seriously undermine the state’s ability to increase the percentage of their workforce trained on these evidence-based approaches.




In Vermont, Title II funds are critical to ensuring large numbers of children and youth can be served in community-based primary prevention programs. These funds have initiated systemic improvements to youth justice that have been sustained. For example, to reduce racial and ethnic disparities, with a focus on new American youth and their families; implementing juvenile jurisdiction reform to expand a hybrid juvenile court jurisdiction; and small primary prevention grants to community non-profits. While the funding has allowed the state to ensure their juvenile justice system is in compliance with the JJDPA, the current allocations leave very little funding to make further improvements after requirements are funded.

We still need more funding in the state to make even more improvements to juvenile justice beyond current allocations.


Learn More.

You can find out more about the JJDPA and its implementation on the Act 4 Juvenile Justice website, and through its lead members, the Campaign for Youth Justice, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the National Juvenile Justice Network.



The state stories above were collected and produced by Act for Juvenile Justice (Act 4 JJ). SparkAction is a member of the Act for Juvenile Justice campaign.