The Scoop: Juvenile Justice Legislation Gets Boost Before New Congress Convenes
Shortly before the Congress adjourned, I introduced legislation to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Prevention Act. The legislation updates and strengthens protections for young people in the criminal justice system. Juvenile justice programs help prevent at-risk youth from entering the system as well as help youth in the system become valuable members of communities across the country.
The first Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act was passed in 1974 and took a number of steps to improve the treatment of juveniles in the criminal justice system.
The bipartisan reauthorization bill, introduced with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, sets an important marker and will be an excellent starting point for reauthorization in the new Congress, which will convene on Jan. 6, 2015.
The legislation contains significant accountability measures that I’ve been championing to ensure that funds go to those most in need, and just as importantly it reflects the current fiscal situation of the country.
The Grassley/Whitehouse bill strengthens several central protections established in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, including narrowing the exception for jailing so-called “status offenders” – such as children who are truant, runaway, or violate curfew, alcohol, and tobacco laws. The bill also includes provisions to ensure the continuity of young people’s education while incarcerated; clear direction to states and localities on how to reduce racial and ethnic disparities among incarcerated youth; improved standards for detaining youth to ensure they are not held with or near adults; better reporting of important juvenile justice metrics to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and provisions to ensure accountability in the use of federal resources devoted to juvenile justice initiatives.
I look forward to continuing work on this bill as we strengthen the juvenile justice system and provide more accountability for the taxpayer dollars being spent to help young people become productive members of society.