Home News Center Federal Juvenile Justice Update - December 2019

Federal Juvenile Justice Update - December 2019

December 19, 2019
Melissa C. Goemann

Federal Youth Justice Funding

On December 16th, an agreement was reached on all twelve Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bills and the bills were passed by the House on December 17th and by the Senate on December 19th. The President is expected to sign the legislation before funding for the federal government expires at midnight on Friday December 20th.

Juvenile justice programs were funded using the Senate bill's numbers, with a slight increase for Title V. For more information, see the funding chart from Rachel Marshall at the Campaign for Youth Justice detailing the youth justice funding levels as compared to the FY19 levels and each House and Senate bill level (note $14.5 million is unearmarked under Title V).

Thank you to the many advocates who have participated in Act4JJ’s Twitter Tuesday action alerts fighting for strong funding for youth justice!

Concern Mounting Over Growing Number of Nonparticipating JJDPA States

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) is critical in providing protections for youth by deinstitutionalizing youth charged with status offenses, removing youth from adult jail and lock-up, ensuring youth are sight and sound separated from adults, and addressing racial and ethnic disparities in the youth justice system.  Yet, in order for children to reap the full benefits of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), states must participate in the Act.

For years, Wyoming was the only nonparticipating state. However, in the past two years Connecticut and Nebraska have also become nonparticipating states. And in Fiscal Year 2019, the number grew to 7 states and 3 territories when the American Samoa, Arkansas, Guam, Massachusetts, Northern Mariana Islands, Texas, and West Virginia all became nonparticipating states.

While the earlier three states chose to no longer participate, a recent article in The Chronicle of Social Change stated that the other states and territories were not allowed to participate because the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) believed that they were  incapable of accurately monitoring compliance with the Act. Rather than providing them with technical assistance, as they Act provides for OJJDP to do, OJJDP instead ruled them ineligible for participation.

This is an alarming new development and we will be working on actions that you can take to address it. Note that while nonprofit organizations and localities may apply for funding that would otherwise go to a participating state, a nonparticipating state does not have to abide by the core protections in the Act which are key to keeping youth safe. 

Federal Legislation Introduced

Members of Congress introduced a number of new bills impacting youth. We have detailed several of them below.

On November 14th, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-7) introduced this resolution, which was cosponsored by Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-130, Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5). The purpose of the resolution is to advance a large-scale federal decarceration effort that would empower directly impacted communities and advance a community-led platform of justice that would shift resources from criminalization and incarceration to policies and investments to enable all people to thrive, fairly and equitably. It also calls for the disruption of school discipline policies that disproportionately impact students of color and lead to the growing school-to-confinement pipeline.

On December 5th, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-7) introduced this bill, with co-leads Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5). The purpose of the bill is to end school pushout of girls of color and disrupt the school-to-prison pathway. Click here for a summary of the bill.

On November 12th, Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA-5) introduced this bill, which is co-led by Representative Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of eight additional lawmakers. This bill exempts youth up to 21 from the requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The PLRA currently creates obstacles for incarcerated youth seeking relief in federal court from abuse in facilities, by requiring them to file grievances before bringing a lawsuit, sometimes with the very people who have abused them. 52 groups have endorsed the legislation.

  • H.R. 4911 – Childhood Outcomes Need New Efficient Community Teams (CONNECT Act)

On October 29th, Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ-6) introduced this bill with cosponsor Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-CA-38). The bill provides grants to assist crossover youth by promoting better coordination between youth justice and child welfare systems. A related bill, S. 1465, was introduced in the Senate in the spring by Senators Chuck Grassley and Gary C. Peters (D-MI). It has been cosponsored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

  • New Way Forward Act (no bill number yet)

On December 10th, Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL-04), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-04), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07), and Karen Bass (D-CA-37) introduced this bill. The New Way Forward Act intends to disrupt the prison-to-deportation pipeline and roll back harmful immigration laws that have led to racial profiling and disproportionately resulted in the incarceration, deportation, and destruction of families of color and immigrant communities. Click here for a section-by-section summary of the bill.

National Sign-on Letters and Comments

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

  • In December, 2019, NJJN signed onto a letter organized by the Children’s Defense Fund supporting passage of the Family First Transition Act (S. 2777/H.R. 4980). The bill presents a bipartisan effort to help jurisdictions implement the Family First Prevention Services Act more effectively and would provide crucial resources to states and tribes.
  • Nov. 13, 2019 – On Nov. 12th, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) introduced the Justice for Juveniles Act (H.R. 5053), which exempts youth up to 21 from the requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). NJJN endorsed this legislation. See above for further details.
  • Oct. 31, 2019 – Signed onto letter urging Representatives to vote against Representative James Comer’s proposed amendment to the College Affordability Act, H.R. 4674, which sought to deny access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to people who have committed “crimes against children.”

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