Home News Center Federal Juvenile Justice Update - August 2020

Federal Juvenile Justice Update - August 2020

August 19, 2020
Melissa C. Goemann



COVID-19 Relief Funds Needed - Where is Congress?

Our nation is in crisis. The CDC reports that over 5 million Americans have COVID-19 cases and we are approaching 170,000 deaths. Our loved ones in jails and prisons continue to be at great risk -- as of August 18th there were 1,620 youth and 2,097 staff known to be infected with COVID-19 in juvenile facilities across the country. As millions of Americans continue to struggle with COVID-19 cases and related ramifications, including unemployment, food insecurity, evictions, homelessness, and concerns regarding voting safety, where is Congress? The Senate is on recess and the House has only been called back to deal with the crisis in the postal service.

While millions in this country are suffering to an extent not seen since the Great Depression, we need Congress back in session doing the work of and for our people. This is no time to take a break. For our justice involved youth, it is critical that Congress include protections for them in the stalled COVID-19 recovery package. While the House passed the HEROES Act, H.R. 6800, in May, which authorized  $75 million in youth justice funding to the states, the Senate has failed to take it up. Instead, the Senate introduced the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act in July, which does not contain any funding for justice-involved youth. Please take action with the Act4JJ alert here, and then share with friends and networks.

We also need Congress to address the many other needs of youth and families -- unemployment compensation of $600 per week expired at the end of July; the federal moratorium on evictions expired at the end of July; states and localities urgently need federal assistance to meet essential needs with local revenues falling; and states need resources to ensure we can meet all citizens’ needs to vote safely. We urge Congress to come back to address these urgent needs now through a robust relief package.

National Sign-on Letters and Comments

Please see below for a list of the national letters that NJJN has signed since our last newsletter and see the federal policy page of our website for a complete list:

●       August 13, 2020 – Signed onto a letter by the Legal Action Center to Congressional leadership asking that they include the Medicaid Reentry Act in the next legislative COVID-19 package. If passed, the Medicaid Reentry Act (included in the HEROES Act) would allow Medicaid to provide health care in the last 30 days of incarceration to improve outcomes for individuals returning to the community.

●       August 13, 2020 – Signed onto a letter led by the Leadership Conference for Civil & Human Rights (LCCHR) to Congressional leadership urging for a vote on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act in September. The MORE Act would remove marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, thus decriminalizing the substance at the federal level and enabling states to set their own policy. 

●       August 10, 2020 – Signed on to a joint report by the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center of Howard University and the Criminal Justice Policy Program of Harvard Law School on COVID-19 recommendations. The report, entitled “The Contradiction of Colorblind COVID-19 Relief: Black America in the Age of Pandemic,” asks Congress to ensure COVID-19 relief sufficiently addresses the harms being done to the Black community. 

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