JJDPA Mattered in 2015: What I'm Thankful For

November 24, 2015

National juvenile justice advocates who have been making the case for why JJDPA matters have a lot to be thankful for in 2015.  And so do the young people and families who will benefit from stronger, more effective policies.

Where to begin?

This holiday season, let Congress know that, while there is much left to do, we are thankful for the work that began in 2015 to address the needs of our most vulnerable youth.

We can start with the introduction of bipartisan legislation in the Senate to renew the landmark Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).  More than eight years overdue for reauthorization, this law protects youth in custody and helps states reform their systems in ways that have better outcomes for kids and communities. Among other things, the law would ensure that young people are no longer incarcerated for behaviors such as skipping school or running away from home, and that youth who are awaiting trial cannot be held in adult jails.  

Under the leadership of Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a voice vote in July. It currently boasts a bipartisan list of cosponsors, including:

  • Sen. Ayotte (R-NH),
  • Sen Blumenthal (D-CT),
  • Sen. Blunt (R-MO),
  • Sen. Coons (D-DE),
  • Sen. Cornyn (R-TX),
  • Sen. Durbin (D-IL),
  • Sen. Feinstein (D-CA),
  • Sen. Hatch (R-UT),
  • Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN),
  • Sen. Leahy (D-VT),
  • Sen. Murray (D-WA),
  • Sen. Rubio (R-FL), and
  • Sen. Shaheen (D-NH).

Will we get our Christmas wish and see the bill approved by the full Senate before the end of the year? With your help, we can do our best to make this become a reality.

The U.S. Senate gave us other things to be thankful for as well.  The Appropriations Committee restored and recommended an increase for critical JJDPA funding for fiscal year 2016. 

On the other side of the Hill, the House of Representatives’ Education and Workforce Committee also held a hearing on the JJJDPA where Chairman John Kline (R-MN) told a packed room that “keeping our communities safe and supporting at-risk youth requires more than an adjudication system and a detention facility. It requires education, rehabilitation, and family participation—a joint effort by parents, teachers, community members, and civic leaders to prevent criminal behavior and support children who have engaged in illegal activity.”

Lawmakers also introduced other important bills to address the needs of youth, including the REDEEM Act, the Youth Promise Act, a reauthorization of the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant (JBAG), and legislation that aims to eliminate use of the JJDPA’s valid court order exception which currently allows status offenders to be locked up.

And if all of these weren’t enough, President Obama issued a proclamation recognizing October as Youth Justice Awareness Month saying, in part, “America is a Nation of second chances, and justice means giving every young person a fair shot -- regardless of what they look like or what zip code they were born into.  The system we created to safeguard this fundamental ideal must do exactly that.  During National Youth Justice Month, let us recommit to ensuring our justice system acts not as a means for perpetuating a cycle of hopelessness, but as a framework for uplifting our young people with a sense of purpose so they can contribute to America’s success.”

And, at every one of these national stages, young people were there, talking about their experiences, raising their voices, leading the conversation in the name of reform like Sloane Baxter, 22, who shared his personal story of being system-involved and the need for juvenile justice reform.  

Learn about the importance of the JJDPA and urge Congress to support S.1169 with our handy toolkit.

This holiday season, let Congress know that, while there is much left to do, we are thankful for the work that began in 2015 to address the needs of our most vulnerable youth.

Sample Social Media Posts (For Facebook and Twitter):

  • Thank you @ChuckGrassley for your leadership on juvenile justice reform and protecting our youth. #JJDPAMatters [insert Grassley graphic]
  • Thank you @POTUS for recognizing YJAM. Please help us continue the work to keep our kids in the classroom, not the courtroom. #JJDPAMatters
  • Thank you @SenWhitehouse for helping our most vulnerable youth .The time is now for youth justice reform. #JJDPAMatters
  • Thank you @RepJohnKline for recognizing that the JJDPA can help improve positive youth development #JJDPAMatters [insert Kline meme]
  • I’m thankful that S.1169 passed out of the Senate Judiciary on a voice vote: http://bit.ly/1QFYcbj #JJDPAMatters
  • I'm thankful for: REEDEM Act, JJDPA, YPA, JBAG reauth & legislation that aims to eliminate use of valid court order exceptions #JJDPAMatters
  • I'm thankful that young people were able to share their exp with jj + the importance of reform at briefings in House & Senate #JJDPAMatters
  • I'm thankful that state leg are approving laws that better serve youth like TX where truancy is no longer considered a crime #JJDPAMatters
  • I'm hopeful that S.1169 will be approved by the full Senate before the end of the year! http://bit.ly/JJDPAmatters #JJDPAMatters

Sharable Graphics:

whitehouse Rep Kline