On Thursday, July 23, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), S 1169. The bill was approved by voice vote with no objections to what has been a bipartisan effort. Its sponsorship is also bipartisan with Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) jointly introducing the bill earlier this year. The legislation had actually been introduced in last days of last year’s (113th) Congress. The last time the JJDPA was reauthorized was in 2002 with the current programs operating without an authorization since 2007.
Supporters of the legislation feel it strengthens the JJDPA’s protections for young people in the juvenile justice system. The changes the bill enacts include the exception to the current prohibitions on jailing children who engage in non-criminal behaviors like skipping school and running away from home. The exception is granted when a child is found in violation of a valid court order and in 2012 this exception was used to jail children more than 7,000 times nationwide. The bipartisan bill requires states to phase out this practice. Other key provisions include:
- requiring states to consider ethnicity in addition to race when assessing and addressing disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system;
- provisions for trauma-informed care and specialized programming for girls;
- taking into account the new science about how kids are different from adults and ought to be treated as kids; and
- added protections for kids charged as adults.
The bill that was adopted included some modifications from the original bill creating greater priority in federal funding to those programs that are scientifically proven to work with at-risk juveniles and it includes language that is designed to encourage states to phase out the use of unreasonable restraints of juveniles in detention including the use of shackling.
To read a copy of Senator Grassley and Senator Leahy’s statements go here.
In the House the JJDPA is under the jurisdiction of the House Education and Workforce Committee.