CWLA 2008 Children's Legislative Agenda
The Juvenile & Delinquency Prevention Act
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- Reauthorize and strengthen the Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).
The JJDPA was originally enacted in 1974. The legislation
governs the federal administration of the juvenile justice system,
including requiring states adhere to core protections for
youth coming in contact with law enforcement, and promoting
delinquency prevention, rehabilitation, and best practices.
The JJDPA, most recently reauthorized in 2002 with
bipartisan support, provides for a juvenile justice planning
and advisory system spanning all states, territories, and the
District of Columbia. It designates federal funding for delinquency
prevention and improvements in state and local
juvenile justice programs and operation of a federal agency,
the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
(OJJDP), in the Department of Justice. OJJDP oversees
training, technical assistance, model programs, and
research and evaluation to support state and local efforts.
The legislation is based on a broad consensus that children,
youth, and families involved with the juvenile and
criminal courts should be guarded by federal standards for
care and custody, while also upholding the interests of community
safety and the prevention of victimization. All states,
territories, and the District of Columbia must comply with
the following core protections: deinstitutionalization of status
offenders, jail removal, sight and sound separation of
juveniles from adults, and disproportionate minority contact.
Improvements Needed in Reauthorization
The 110th Congress will consider the reauthorization of the
JJDPA. In recent years, leading congressional proposals
have been focused on lengthening sentences, increasing
penalties, and reducing protections for offending youth.
The new Congress needs to take a fresh approach that
emphasizes more positive and strength-based strategies.
Successful prevention initiatives, early intervention programs,
rehabilitative strategies, gender specific services for
prevention and intervention, alternatives to incarceration,
and other similar approaches need to be at the forefront of
the juvenile justice policy agenda in the 110th Congress.
The Child Welfare-Juvenile Justice Connection
A growing body of research undeniably establishes the connection
between all forms of child maltreatment-neglect,
physical, and sexual abuse-and subsequent involvement in
delinquency and the juvenile justice system. Research confirms
these maltreated youth frequently struggle in the education
arena, particularly with mental health and substance
abuse issues-all of which are often preludes to crime. The
2002 reauthorized JJDP Act recognized this critical issue
and included provisions calling for the establishment of
policies and systems to incorporate relevant child protective
services records into juvenile justice records for purposes of
establishing and implementing treatment plans for juvenile
offenders. Unfortunately, real or perceived barriers that
include difficulties with data collection, information management,
federal and state confidentiality statutes, agency
mandates, and fiscal strictures often preclude these efforts.
Congress must require state and local jurisdictions comprehensively
examine these obstacles and develop improved
protocols, policies, and procedures that ensure better coordination
between the child welfare, child protection, and juvenile
justice systems. Congress must require the Department of
Justice 1) provide targeted consultation and technical assistance
to state and local jurisdictions that address these issues,
and 2) expand data collection and research related to maltreated
youth involved in the juvenile justice system to effectively
implement the provisions of Section 223(a)(26) and (27) of
the 2002 JJDP Act. These new requirements must be supported
with adequate resources for effective implementation.
The new legislation should include language to build on initiatives
to better coordinate and integrate juvenile justice and child
welfare systems; require a comprehensive examination of issues
impacting cooperation between these systems, including data
collection, information sharing, statutory mandates, and fiscal
resources; and provide adequate resources for implementation.
The JJDPA includes four core protections for youth who
come in contact with law enforcement. These protections
include the deinstitutionalization of status offenders, jail
removal, sight and sound separation from adults in those
instances when juveniles are incarcerated in adult facilities,
and addressing disproportionate minority contact. These
core protections should be strengthened to ensure fair and
proper treatment of youth.
The provision on disproportionate minority contact, in
particular, should be strengthened to specifically and intentionally
reduce racial and ethnic disparities. Incentives and
bonuses should be offered to states for reducing disproportionality.
Similarly, the legislation should include requirements
for states to develop and adopt policies to prohibit disparate
treatment of girls and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and
questioning (LGBTQ) youth in placement and treatment, and
to establish specific services to ensure these youth have
access to the full range of health and mental health services,
treatment for physical or sexual assault and abuse, and the
benefit of effective strategies for prevention and diversions.
Much greater emphasis must be placed on removing
juveniles from detention facilities, especially adult jails and
lockups. Alternatives to incarceration must be expanded
and made more widely available in communities nationwide.
States should be prohibited from placing youth, who have
been prosecuted as adults in criminal court, in adult inmate
facilities while they are awaiting trial on criminal charges.
The transfer of young offenders to adult court has significantly
increased in recent years. This practice has failed
to make communities safer. New legislation, therefore, is
needed to significantly reduce the transfer of offenders from
juvenile to adult court.
Community Support Services
The legislation needs to develop and pass new language
focused on issues related to community supports for youth,
including expanding mental health and substance abuse
treatment, and strengthening community re-entry efforts.
Mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral health
issues are often root causes of youth involvement with law
enforcement. Community protection agencies must work
together with health and human services professionals on
prevention programs, early intervention activities, and other
support and treatment initiatives.
Perhaps the single most effective set of strategies for turning
young people away from crime and problematic behavior
and towards successful adulthood is through proven effective
prevention programs. Research studies show that when
young people are provided safe, structured, supervised and
healthy activities in which to participate, they are less likely
to become involved in the high risk, unhealthy behaviors
that can derail positive development.
Congress must significantly expand federal support for
delinquency prevention. Reauthorizing the JJDPA is an
opportunity to do this. The legislation must enhance federal
support for evidence-based, effective prevention strategies
as a strategy to be employed by juvenile justice agencies.
Federal funding has been woefully inadequate to sufficiently
support the JJDPA and youth in turning their lives away from
problematic behavior. In fact, between FY 2002 and FY 2007,
federal funds were cut by more than 40%. Funding was partly
restored in FY 2008 as it was increased by 12%. Juvenile
justice programs such as the Title V Delinquency Prevention
Grant program and the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant
program have experienced similar drastic cuts in funding.
Significant increases are necessary to better meet the
service and program needs of vulnerable youth.
Substantially increased funding is also required for crime
prevention, rehabilitation, and alternatives to incarceration
as effective strategies to reduce youth crime.
- In 2006, 1.6 million children under age 18 were arrested,
a 15% increase from 1.4 million arrests in 2005. 1
- A 2003 census of juvenile offenders showed 96,655
children in juvenile correction facilities.2
- Low family income has repeatedly been associated with
self-reported teen violence and convictions for violent
- Up to 29% of dependent children engage in delinquent
behavior. The risk of delinquency is approximately 47%
higher for victims of child abuse and neglect. Dependent
youth are arrested more often and begin offending at an
earlier age, compared with nondependent youth. 4
- Nearly one-third (31%) of all violent crime committed by
juvenile offenders occurs between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. In
comparison, 27% of all violent crime committed by adult
offenders occurs between 8 p.m. and midnight. 5
- Youth of color represent only one-third of the American
adolescent population, yet they represent two-thirds of
youth in juvenile facilities. 6
- U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Justice Information Services Division. (2007). 2006 Crime in the United States. Available online. Clarksburg, WV: Author. back
- Sickmund, M., Sladky, T.J., & Kang, W. (2005). Census of juveniles in residential placement databook. Available online. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. back
- Henry, B., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T.E., & Silva, P.A. (1996). Temperament and family predictors of violent and non-violent criminal convictions: Age 3 to age 18. Developmental Psychology, 32, 614-623; Farrington, D.P. (1995). Key issues in the integration of motivational and opportunity-reducing crime prevention strategies. In, Integrating crime prevention strategies: Propensity and opportunity (pp. 333-357). National Council for Crime Prevention. back
- Herz, D., Krinsky, M., & Ryan, J. (2006). Improving system responses to crossover youth: The role of research and practice partnerships. The Link, 5(1). back
- Statistical briefing book: Juveniles as offenders. (2006). Available online. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. back
- Building Blocks For Youth. (2005, October). No turning back: Promising approaches to reducing racial and ethnic disparities affecting youth of color in the justice system. Washington, DC: Author. back
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