At the end of last week, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention ACT (JJDPA). The members supporting the long-awaited reauthorization include Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Education and Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) Congressman Buddy Carter (R-GA) and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-FL).
The Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act, as described by sponsors would provide states and local leaders flexibility to deliver services that meet the specific needs of delinquent youth in their communities and help at-risk youth avoid the juvenile justice system by supporting prevention services and programs. It would also increase accountability and oversight at all levels of the juvenile justice system.
It has been more than a decade since the Act has been reauthorized. The Senate had made bipartisan progress on a reauthorization earlier this Congress but movement of a Senate bipartisan deal has been blocked by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) who has placed a hold on that bill. Some of his objections relate to the provisions of the Senate bill that attempt to reduce the number of juveniles who are placed in jail due to “status offense” issues. These are youth who end up incarcerated for violating laws related to their youth status (e.g. curfew violations, underage drinking, skipping schools, etc.). Upon introduction Congressman Curbelo said,
“Many children are born into circumstances out of their control and believe the only path forward is one of crime or delinquency. The purpose of this legislation is to help those children understand there is a better path forward and success is within their reach. These bipartisan reforms will deliver state and local leaders the tools they need to help the most vulnerable kids in their communities put the past behind them and work toward a brighter future. …”