Juvenile and Family Court Judges Urge Reauthorization of the JJDPA

Honorable David E. Stucki & Shawn C. Marsh, Ph.D.
December 17, 2013

Reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) is long overdue.

To that end, the Board of Trustees of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) recently passed an updated resolution urging Congress to reauthorize the JJDPA as its first order of business in the 114th Congress. Coupled with a previous resolution encouraging timely reauthorization of the JJDPA and strengthening of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and a previous resolution supporting reauthorization with the phase out of the Valid Court Order Exception (VCOE), the NCJFCJ continues its position that the juvenile justice system must be appropriately resourced and embrace practice informed by science.

Although an important tool for communicating NCJFCJ’s position on important topics of interest to judges, resolutions are not the only pathway by which juvenile and family court judges and allied professionals are working to support juvenile justice system reform. Each day across the nation, judges, court staff and system stakeholders are tackling issues such as eliminating the use of detention with status offenders, implementing risk assessment tools to inform dispositions, leveraging implementation science to expand and improve the use of evidence-based practices, and striving to create trauma-responsive courts.

Specific examples of these efforts include NCJFCJ judges and staff: Developing a network of courts across the nation committed to improving practice in juvenile justice that builds upon the Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines published in 2005 with funding from the OJJDP; working with the Coalition for Juvenile Justice to craft standards for the de-institutionalization of status offenders; supporting judicial education about Annie E. Casey Foundation detention reform initiatives; and partnering with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network to educate judges and court personnel on the impact of trauma on human development. Underlying all of these efforts is a desire for a juvenile justice system that draws upon science and that is developmentally appropriate.

For example, we now know more than ever about the adolescent brain, the influence of peer groups, and the conditions by which to support resiliency – and this knowledge must be thoroughly integrated into all juvenile justice systems across the nation for us to see meaningful change and ensure humane intervention with some of our most vulnerable youth.

Ultimately, the JJDPA is the primary vehicle to accomplish this broad yet critical task as well as provide necessary guidance and incentives to improve practice and outcomes. The NCJFCJ applauds the ACT4JJ Campaign’s JJDPA Matters Blog Project as a means to raise awareness of this important issue and encourage action, and strongly urges the reauthorization of the JJDPA as a fundamental commitment to core standards of practice and ensuring an effective juvenile justice system.

This is part of the ACT4JJ Campaign's JJDPA Matters Blog Project, a 16-week series that launched Sept. 10, 2013. You can find the full series at the JJDPA Matters Action Center.

Honorable David E. Stucki is the President of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

Shawn C. Marsh, Ph.D., is the Chief Program Officer over Juvenile Law at the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Dr. Marsh is a social psychologist with research and teaching interests in the areas of psychology and the law, adolescent development, trauma, and juvenile justice.