A Decade of Cuts to Juvenile Justice Funds

Liz Ryan and Nancy Gannon Hornberger
August 18, 2013

Every $1 invested in community-based youth development and prevention efforts reduces delinquency and saves taxpayers up to $8 in future costs.

Yet over the past decade, federal funds for juvenile justice programs have been significantly and steadily cut. These cuts risk forcing states to increase the use of incarceration for youth, including placement of children in adult jails, which runs counter to research that shows the public supports rehabilitation and treatment for youth. 

The good news, if there is any, is that it's not too late. With your help, we can prevent further cuts this fiscal year.

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) turned 39 on Sept. 7, 2013. It has provided critical federal funding to states to comply with a set of core requirements designed to protect children from the dangers of adult jails and lockups; keep children charged with status offenses out of locked custody; and address the disparate treatment of youth of color in the justice system.

  • The JJDPA's Title II funding helps states comply with the core requirements and helps ensure that states have resources to build effective state systems. 
  • Title V is the only federal program that provides delinquency prevention funding at the local level to reach youth at risk and help keep them out of the juvenile justice system. 

Funding, Through the Years

Federal funds for the landmark JJDPA have steadily declined in the past decade. What does that mean? Jump to the historical federal funding chart.

Cuts to JJDPA:

  • Undermine the implementation of the JJDPA core requirements, such as the Jail Removal provision that prohibits the placement of youth in adult jails and lockups. (Click here for a fact sheet on the dangers of placing youth in adult jails.)
  • Result in more youth incarcerated in adult jails -- costly and dangerous facilities where youth are placed at severe risk of suicide, physical and sexual abuse, recidivism, and a lifetime of disconnection from education and work;
  • Erode and jeopardize nationwide progress on juvenile justice improvements that have led to historic low rates in youth-offending across all U.S. states and territories; and
  • Eliminate support for cost-effective delinquency prevention programs and alternatives to incarceration, which increase public safety and decrease recidivism and public costs. For every $1 spent in prevention and community-based alternatives, taxpayers save up to $8 in criminal justice costs.

These cuts run counter to public opinion research (PDF) showing that the public rejects placement of youth in adult jails and prisons and instead strongly favors:

  • Rehabilitation and treatment approaches, such as counseling, education, treatment, restitution and community service;
  • Requiring the juvenile justice system to reduce racialand ethnic disparities; and
  • Independent oversight to ensure youth are protected from abuse while in state or local custody.

Get Involved

Working together, we can turn this around!  By taking action, you will be joining thousands of individuals and organizations nationwide as part of the Act4JJ Campaign to protect children in the justice system.

(1) Visit the JJDPA Action Center for facts, voices & views, and ways to get involved.

(2) Click the Act Now button for an easy Zip Code-activated alert to contact your Members of Congress.

(3) Share the JJDPA Action Center with your social networks.

(4) Use our Contact the Media tool to find and contact local media outlets and urge them to editorialize in support of fully funding the JJDPA.

To stay updated on the Act 4 Juvenile Justice campaign, sign up for updates at www.act4jj.org.



Liz Ryan is president and CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice and co-chair of the Act 4 Juvenile Justice campaignco-chair of the Act 4 Juvenile Justice campaign.



Nancy Gannon Hornberger, former co-chair of Act 4 Juvenile Justice, is the former executive director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.



Act 4 Juvenile Justice is a campaign of the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition composed of juvenile justice, child welfare and youth development organizations exploring opportunities related to the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.