Child looking at jars of coins.

It’s Time to Invest in Youth

April 2, 2018

Congressional Appropriations Committees in both chambers are at work to set federal funding levels for Fiscal Year 2019. Here's a look at how their decisions matter to effective youth justice programs across the country.

For more than forty years, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) has provided critical federal funding to states and tribes to comply with a set of core requirements designed to protect children from the dangers of adult jails and lockups; keep status offenders out of locked custody; and address racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system. Title II of the JJDPA funding supports state compliance with these core protections and helps build effective state systems. Title V is the only federal program that provides delinquency prevention funding at the tribal and local level to reach youth at risk and help keep them out of the juvenile justice system. The Tribal Youth Program, included in Title V of the JJDPA, is the primary program through which tribal governments regularly receive juvenile justice funding.

Thanks to funding through JJDPA, states are able to invest in justice-involved youth and help them turn their lives around so that they can become healthy and productive adults.


How JJDPA funding was used in Alabama


For example, in Alabama, the Morgan County System of Services, which receives funding through Title II of the JJDPA, utilizes a wrap-around approach to provide highly structured, community-based, individualized post-adjudication programs for juvenile offenders based on a comprehensive intake and screening process. Either through direct provision of services or in partnership with other service providers, the Morgan County System of Services provides youth with vocational and job readiness training, credit remediation or GED preparation, life skills courses, and mental health and substance abuse treatment, just to name a few. The program currently serves approximately 350-400 medium to high-risk youth each year. Without this funding, many more youth in Morgan County would likely be institutionalized rather than at home where they can have the support of their family while receiving the critical services they need.

In Texas, federal funds have been used to advance school-based delinquency prevention, job training, and critical treatment and rehabilitation programs that address substance abuse and behavioral health needs of our young people. Programs funded by the JJDPA in Waco and Bryan, Texas provide critical school-based diversions in lieu of citations, suspensions, or expulsions, which increase the likelihood of dropping out and becoming more deeply involved in the system. The Waco program offers alternatives to formal adjudication – a model that has worked well in other states and has had positive outcomes for youth in Waco. Funds have also been used to support gender-specific programming that targets the growing number of young girls who are impacted by the juvenile justice system.

Federal support of key juvenile justice programs has declined to the lowest levels in more than a decade.

The Fresno County Probation Department in California 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.

The National Picture

Federal support of key juvenile justice programs has declined to the lowest levels in more than a decade. This is despite the fact that we know community-based programming that can provide individualized, wrap-around services can cost as little as $75 per day, whereas the most expensive confinement for youth can cost up to $400 a day.

While the President’s FY 2019 budget does request a slight increase in spending (Title II: From $55 million to $58 million, Title V: From $14.5 million to $17 million), we believe our youth deserve better. Further, the slight increase requested by the President’s budget is not guaranteed. It is up to Congress to set the final numbers through appropriations bills.

Cuts to these programs over the last decade have weakened the federal state partnership and stymied national, state, and local progress in this area.

As Congress begins the appropriations process for the upcoming fiscal year, we urge them to keep youth in mind and restore this critical funding. Particularly given the increase in nondefense discretionary spending provided for in the budget deal reached by Congress earlier this month, we urge Congress to fund the JJDPA at the levels provided in H.R. 1809, the bill that reauthorizes the JJDPA, including $76.1 million for Title II of the JJDPA and $92 million for Title V of the JJDPA.

Any less would move even further away from the targeted federal involvement that has historically provided critical national leadership to states in preventing youth from entering the justice system.