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August Federal Juvenile Justice Update

August 30, 2017
Melissa Goemann

Federal Juvenile Justice Update | August 2017

Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act (JJDPA) Steaming Ahead

For the first time in many years, the House and Senate passed JJDPA reauthorization bills; both of which were passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. The Senate passed S. 860 by unanimous consent on Aug. 1st. It was sponsored by Sen. Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The House passed similar legislation, H.R. 1809, on May 24th, sponsored by Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN), with key support from Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). Thank you to all of our members and partners for your calls, emails, and other advocacy efforts to help get these bills passed!

Both bills are similar and strengthen the JJDPA in a number of important ways, such as phasing out the shackling of pregnant girls in detention and encouraging alternatives to detention.  But there are differences in the two bills. A key difference concerns incarcerating young people for status offenses – behaviors such as running away from home or skipping school, that would not be crimes if they were adults. The House bill would phase out the current “valid court order” (VCO) exception to the prohibition on incarcerating these young people. A similar provision was removed from the Senate bill following an objection from one Senator, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).

The differences in the two bills will have to be resolved by the House and Senate before they can approve a joint a version of the bill and send it to the President. Please thank your Senators for recently passing the JJDPA and urge your Members of Congress to:

  • Support a reauthorization of the JJDPA that includes the phaseout of the VCO exception; and
  • Push for approval of the JJDPA reauthorization bill as soon as they get back to Washington this fall. It is important that it be signed into law before funding decisions are made.

Funding for Juvenile Justice

Congress must approve federal spending for discretionary programs, including juvenile justice funding for state programs, before the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1st, 2017. The Administration’s proposal would provide $58 million for Title II grants and $17 million for Title V grants. These are slight increase in current funding —Title II is currently funded at $55 million and Title V at $14.5 million.

Senate

●     On July 27, 2017, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved their Fiscal Year 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill which would increase funding for Title II grants to $60 million and for Title V grants to $19 million. It did not provide funding for the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program.

House

●     On July 13, 2017, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved their Fiscal Year 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill by a vote of 31 to 21. This bill zeroes out funding for Title II and Title V of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) and continues the lack of funding for the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant.

The House has zeroed out funding for the JJDPA for the third year in a row. It is critical that Members of Congress hear from you about the importance of maintaining and increasing federal funding for juvenile justice programs and services, at least at the level that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved.

In-District Toolkit

For more information on how to connect with your Members of Congress while they are in your home district see our updated In-District Toolkit.

Statement Opposing President’s Comments to Law Enforcement

The National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition (NJJDPC), of which NJJN is a member, issued a statement on August 1st opposing the President’s dangerous comments encouraging the use of force against members of our community. We believe that law enforcement is here to “serve and protect” and not to “rough up” community members and are encouraged by statements of police departments and professional memberships across the country that have condemned the President’s comments, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

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