Senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday reintroduced legislation to reauthorize expiring programs in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Committee members Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act to authorize key programs designed to protect children.
Leahy, Specter, Kohl, and Durbin sponsored legislation to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice Act in the last Congress after months of research and debate, and the legislation was reported by the Judiciary Committee in September 2008. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act will increase federal funding of prevention, intervention and treatment programs designed to reduce the incidence of juvenile crime. The reauthorization legislation aims to balance providing federal support and guidance to state programs, and respecting the individual criminal justice policies of states.
A key goal of the JJDPA is to help reduce crime and recidivism among youths. The legislation urges states to make improvements to juvenile justice systems, and provides common sense guidelines, procedural protections and restrictions on the pretrial detention of juveniles in adult jails and the detention of children who commit status offenses like truancy.
Leahy said, "The basic goals of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act include keeping our communities safe by reducing juvenile crime and advancing programs and policies that keep children out of the criminal justice system. Many prominent Vermont representatives of law enforcement, the juvenile justice system, and prevention-oriented non-profits have spoken to me in support of this reauthorization. This bill pushes forward new ways to help children move out of the criminal justice system, return to school, and become responsible, hard-working members of our communities. I hope all Senators will join us in supporting this important legislation."
Specter said, "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. 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."
Kohl said, "A successful strategy to combat juvenile crime consists of a large dose of prevention and intervention programs. Juvenile justice programs have proven time and time again that they help prevent crime, strengthen communities, and rehabilitate juvenile offenders. The JJDPA has always had a dual focus: prevention and rehabilitation. Our bill strengthens and improves the JJDPA by supporting innovative, cost-effective, evidence based prevention and rehabilitation programs."
The JJDPA also authorizes funding for mental health and drug treatment for juvenile offenders, and encourages states to address the overrepresentation of minorities in the juvenile justice system. Importantly, the legislation 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. Competitive grants authorized under the expiring Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act are administered through the Department of Justice.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings in the last Congress to examine states' needs in combating juvenile crime. A section-by section summary of the legislation is available for background.