Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley, Whitehouse Bill Reauthorizes Juvenile Justice Programs with Improved Accountability

Apr 30, 2015

WASHINGTON – Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse today are introducing legislation to ensure that at-risk youth are fairly and effectively served by juvenile justice grant programs. Their legislation updates existing law by promoting improved transparency and accountability at the state and federal level.  It also adds additional support for youth with mental illnesses and guards against fraud and mismanagement of grant funds through enhanced oversight.

“Juvenile justice programs are important tools to help local communities serve and protect at-risk youth, however it hasn’t been revisited in more than a dozen years.  Our bill provides a long-overdue policy refresh to improve opportunities for our nation’s must vulnerable children and strengthen safeguards for youth who encounter the juvenile justice system.  Our bill also creates measures to tackle fraud and waste so that our youth can benefit from the programs’ full potential,” Grassley said.

"Every child has a future, and we are all best served when kids in the juvenile justice system have appropriate opportunities to get back on track, rather than being marginalized and falling further behind.  This legislation will give kids the chance to improve their lives while they are detained; ensure that our juvenile justice system protects children in its custody; keep kids from being detained for status offenses that would never land an adult in prison; and address racial disparities in the current system.  I’m proud to stand with Chairman Grassley in reintroducing this important bill,” Whitehouse said.

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act was created in 1974 to ensure the safety of at-risk youth who enter the criminal justice system, and assist states with their juvenile justice programs and activities.  The program has not been updated since 2002 and is due to be reauthorized this year.  The Grassley-Whitehouse bill improves the existing law by:

  • Requiring the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to identify best practices to serve and protect at-risk youth;
  • Calling for a greater focus on mental health and substance abuse;
  • Expanding training to support judges who work with juvenile cases;
  • Encouraging greater cooperation between programs and state authorities;
  • Phasing out remaining circumstance in which youth offenders may be detained for “status” offenses, which would not be crimes if committed by adults;
  • Offering guidance on identifying and reducing racial and ethnic disparities among youth in the juvenile justice system, and creating safeguards to improve juvenile reentry services; and 
  • Improving transparency and accountability.

A list of the bill’s key provisions is available HERE.

A number of whistleblowers have alleged that many states fall short of core requirements to receive the taxpayer-funded grants, and the Justice Department office responsible for overseeing the program has admitted it has had an unlawful policy in place since 1997 that allowed states to receive these grants despite violations of funding requirements.  This prompted Grassley and Whitehouse to craft new accountability requirements to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used appropriately, and youth are being adequately served.

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