U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley) and U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) this week sent a letter to Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling on the Senate to recognize the critical importance of juvenile mental health in preventing violence, including gun crime.
The two California legislators are well-known for passing the Schiff-Cárdenas Crime Prevention Act of 2000. That bill, and legislation that followed it, provided dedicated funding sources for juvenile justice programs, which have since been proven effective in slowing crime by at-risk youth in California.
Confirming its effectiveness, a report from the Rand Corporation indicates that statewide efforts after the 2000 passage of the Schiff-Cárdenas Act have resulted in lower law enforcement costs and a measurable positive affect on young people who participate in it.
"We know that intervention and prevention have much better outcomes than the traditional suppression model of law enforcement," said Cárdenas. "Matching the money we use to put kids in jail with money to help put their lives on a better path is the right thing to do. It is also the fiscally responsible thing to do. We spend far too much money in our nation fighting crime by punishing criminals, when we could stop them from being a position to commit these crimes in the first place, protecting victims and creating new, productive contributors to our society. That is what we did in California, and I am committed to seeing it become a nationwide policy."
This week's letter alerts Senators to an "over-reliance on traditional models used to address youth violence" that "does nothing to stop the next deadly attack."
The letter continues, "Putting more armed guards in schools should not be the only solution. Our children deserve more. Our schools should remain a place of learning and exploration. By providing the adequate funding for counselors and services, staff will be able to identify at-risk students and help them get the aid they need.
Cárdenas and Schiff request that funding dedicated towards police, guards and school resource officers be matched equally by funding for mental health and early intervention programs for American youth.