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Public Statements

Leahy-Specter-Kohl Introduce Juvenile Justice Reauthorization Bill

Press Release

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee today introduced legislation to extend the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), which authorizes key programs designed to protect young people, keep them out of trouble, and provide necessary resources and programs to provide children with every opportunity to become productive adult members of society.

The JJDPA authorizes a series of competitive grant programs through the Department of Justice to help reduce crime among youths and recidivism in the juvenile justice system. The reauthorization legislation introduced Wednesday by Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Committee member Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), is the product of months of research and debate. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing in December to explore how best to address the needs of states in combating juvenile crime through the reauthorization of the JJDPA.

The proposed legislation would increase federal funding for prevention, intervention and treatment programs designed to reduce incidence of juvenile crime. The bill strikes a balance between providing federal support and guidance to state programs and respecting the individual criminal justice policies of states. The bill urges states to make key improvements to juvenile justice systems, and addresses concerns about pretrial detention of youths in adult jails and about detention of children who commit status offenses like truancy by establishing meaningful guidelines, procedural protections, and restrictions. The legislation also prioritizes and funds mental health and drug treatment for juvenile offenders, and encourages states to further address the overrepresentation of minorities in the juvenile justice system. Finally, the bill supports the efforts of states that attempt to comply with the core requirements of the JJDPA by making funds available through improvement grants to help bring states into compliance with the Act.

"With the reauthorization of this important legislation, we recommit to the important goals of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Protection Act," said Leahy. "We also push the law forward in key ways to better serve our communities and our children. After months of research and discussions, Senator Kohl, Senator Specter, and I believe we have found a way forward toward creating a system that will work more effectively to protect our young people."

"Despite the nationwide recognition of the importance that role models and mentoring play in youth development, there remains an unfortunate shortage of programs devoted to stemming youth delinquency," Specter said. "Through mentoring and other programs, this Act will help to prevent delinquency and promote rehabilitation, so that young offenders are less likely to become stuck in the criminal justice system. I am pleased to be a cosponsor, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to pass this legislation."

"Juvenile justice programs help prevent crime, strengthen communities and give kids a second chance to succeed and lead productive lives," Kohl said. "This legislation responds to the immediate needs of communities throughout our nation facing the problem of juvenile delinquency by increasing federal resources. I applaud Senators Leahy and Specter for working with me to unveil this bill that will bolster and expand juvenile justice initiatives, provide hope for millions of at-risk children and address the roots of crime." For Background

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2008

This bi-partisan legislation strengthens the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) by increasing federal support to States for juvenile crime reduction and for improvement of State juvenile justice systems and by encouraging important reforms.

Increases Federal Funding of Prevention, Intervention, and Treatment Programs Designed to Reduce the Incidence of Juvenile Crime

• Increases funding for critical Title V prevention programs to discourage juvenile contact with the justice system, such as mentoring and aftercare.

• Increases federal authorizations to assist States in achieving and maintaining compliance with the JJDPA's goals and particularly its core requirements.

• Promotes evidence-based and promising practices to ensure that federal dollars have maximum impact.

Encourages States to Make Critical Improvements to Juvenile Justice Systems

• Places significant new emphasis on the crucial issues of mental health and substance abuse, including expanding the allowable uses of grant funds for mental health and substance abuse training and treatment, encouraging states to focus more on these needs, and providing new incentive grants for these purposes.

• Works toward reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system.

• Requires States to devise strategies to eliminate the incidence of dangerous practices, restraints, and isolation of juveniles through the increased use of training and best practices.

• Gives States the authority to retain juveniles in juvenile facilities after the age of majority.

Places Common Sense Limits on the Pretrial Detention of Juveniles in Adult Jails and the Detention of Juveniles for Status Offenses

• Ensures that "status offenders" -- juveniles arrested for offenses that would not be criminal if committed by adults (e.g., runaways, truants) -- not be placed in secure detention unless absolutely necessary, establishes strict time limitations, and establishes procedural protections to ensure their prompt transfer out of detention.

• Discourages the placement of juveniles in adult jails pretrial, establishes meaningful factors to determine when they may be placed pretrial in adult jails, and bolsters procedural protections for juveniles charged as adults.

• Encourages the use of alternatives to secure detention.

Reaffirms and Strengthens the Federal-State Partnership

• Supports States' efforts to comply with JJDPA core requirements by making funds withheld due to non-compliance available to States as improvement grants meant to enable states to become compliant.

• Strengthens research and technical assistance by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Policy (OJJDP) to encourage States to adopt best practices.

• Increases transparency by making State plans and OJJDP decision-making publicly available.


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