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Restoring Juvenile Justice Funding

Location: Washington DC


Mr. KOHL. Madam President, I rise today to discuss juvenile crime and juvenile crime prevention programs. We must remember that a strategy to combat juvenile crime consists of a large dose of prevention programs as well as strong enforcement. Juvenile justice programs have proven time and time again that they help prevent crime, strengthen communities, and give children a second chance to succeed and lead healthy lives. It is no secret that robust funding for these programs in the 1990s contributed to a 68 percent drop in juvenile crime from 1994 to 2000. Most importantly, investment in our at-risk children will help prevent a life marred by crime and wasted in prison.

For these programs to succeed, however, they must be priorities for this Congress and for this administration. We fear that we are failing to live up to our responsibility on this essential issue. A little more than 3 months ago, President Bush released his fiscal year 2005 budget proposal. In it, juvenile justice and delinquency programs will receive only about one-third of the funding they received 3 years ago. This is at a time when recent statistics indicate an uptick in juvenile crime and an increase in school murder rates.

We understand that other priorities compete with juvenile justice funding and local crime prevention programs. Yet the amounts we are discussing are so small in the grand scheme of the budget, and the results from the programs so immense, that they mandate our attention.

When the Senate considered the budget resolution, we began to address the shortfalls in juvenile justice funding. I was pleased to work with Senators HATCH and BIDEN on an amendment to restore cuts made to juvenile justice programs and local law enforcement funding. Our amendment represents a step in the right direction by restoring juvenile justice funding to last year's levels, and reversing the trend of ever-diminishing appropriations for these programs. It is essential that the Kohl-Hatch-Biden amendment that restores juvenile justice funding remain in the final Budget Resolution.

These programs are a wise investment. For every dollar spent on prevention, we save $3 to $4 in costs associated with juvenile crime. Furthermore, law enforcement officials strongly support prevention efforts. A recent poll shows that 71 percent of police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors believe that crime prevention efforts would have the greatest impact in reducing youth violence and crime. So for those who may fear that a crime prevention strategy is not "tough" enough on juveniles, we suggest that these programs make sound economic sense and are overwhelmingly endorsed by law enforcement. We must do a better job of funding them.

Let me tell you about two essential programs. In 1992, we established the Title V Local Delinquency Prevention Program. Title V was and remains unique in that it is the only source of federal funding solely dedicated to juvenile crime prevention efforts. More importantly, Title V has proven to be a very successful program that encourages investment, collaboration, and long-range prevention planning by local communities.

Title V programs include preschool and parent training programs, youth mentoring, after-school activities, tutoring, truancy reduction, substance abuse prevention and gang prevention outreach. Through these initiatives, large cities like Milwaukee to small communities like Ladysmith, WI are creating environments that strengthen families and help children avoid crime and develop into productive adults.

Enforcement is an important part of the overall strategy, but the administration cuts those programs as well. Positive intervention and treatment at this early stage of delinquency can prevent further violent behavior and steer a young person in the right direction before it is too late. Realizing this, Congress created the Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grant Program, JAIBG, in 1997 and provided it with healthy funding levels of $250 million. Congress reauthorized Title V and JAIBG in 2002 at even greater levels. And we improved JAIBG by adding substance abuse and mental health counseling, restitution, community service, and supervised probations to the list of program options. The reauthorized program also ensures State and local accountability for proper and effective uses of funds.

We have a choice in this Congress of where we want to invest our money. We can choose to address the roots of crime and invest in our children by preventing a life of criminal behavior. We can choose to intervene in a positive manner to work with those teens that have fallen through the cracks and have had a few scrapes with the law. We can turn many of those kids around. I urge my colleagues to make the right choice this year and boost funding for the Title V program, the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program, and juvenile justice programs overall. We can and must do better.

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