Home News Center Federal Juvenile Justice Update - October 2020

Federal Juvenile Justice Update - October 2020

October 29, 2020
Melissa C. Goemann

Amy Coney Barrett Appointed to the Supreme Court: What Does this Mean for Youth Justice?

By Danielle Smith

The cursory and unprecedented appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett has justifiably raised concerns for proponents of civil liberties and human rights, including the area of youth justice. In the past decade, the Supreme Court has ruled on several landmark cases that have extended protections to children in the youth justice system: banning the death penalty for children under 18 (Roper v. Simmons); banning life without parole for children convicted of non-homicide offenses (Graham v. Florida); and banning mandatory life with parole for children who have committed homicide (Miller v. Alabama). Although Justice Barrett’s judicial record is limited, understanding her originalist view of the Constitution and how that may impact youth justice elicits apprehension. 

Justice Barrett, a former clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, shares in his originalist views that the law should be applied as the framers intended when the Constitution was written over 200 years ago. This ideology is extremely dangerous when so many members of society were not intended to be included, and many were considered mere property, at the time of the Constitution’s adoption. Additionally, there was no youth justice system at this time and our scientific understanding of how children differ from adults has significantly developed since the 18th century. If Justice Barrett’s views bear any resemblance to Scalia’s, we can expect major setbacks in our continued fight for youth justice. In a country that has made so many advances toward an equitable society, we cannot afford to stand by and watch this work be undone.

At 48, Justice Barrett has the potential to serve on the court for decades to come, undoing the tremendous gains over the past two decades to protect children in the youth justice system. As this confirmation comes 5 days before election day, we must be reminded of the weight of our vote. And although voting for President is getting by far the most attention, it is important to recognize that it is not the only office on the ballot. As we have seen during this confirmation battle, offices for the Senate are of paramount importance as well. In addition, state and local races impact youth justice heavily and also deserve great deliberation.

We must also remember that while our vote is one of the keys to our democracy, it only opens the door. It is up to us to continue to mobilize and hold our public officials accountable after the election, regardless of the outcome. We bear the responsibility of upholding our democracy and establishing justice. 

We are less than one week away from Nov. 3rd - election day! #BeAVoter & get #VoteReady to #VoteYouthJustice

Urge Congress to Pass the HEROES Act

The HEROES Act, H.R. 6800, was passed by the House in May and has not been taken up by the Senate. It is the first COVID-19 relief bill to provide funds for justice involved youth. This Act would provide the following:

  • $75 million to reduce the impact of Covid-19 on youth in the justice system in

Fiscal year 2020 and 2021;

  • $50 million for Title II of the JJDPA to prevent, prepare for, and respond to

Covid-19; and

  • $50 million for the Victims of Child Abuse Prevention Act which be available

for youth in the justice system and young people who have been trafficked.

More than 1,800 kids in the #youthjustice system have tested positive for COVID-19. These young people need our help. Act now to urge Congress to pass the HEROES Act to protect our youth in the justice system and ensure they can return safely home: act4jj.org/take-action.

Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM) Resolution Introduced in the House

A resolution to designate October 2020 as “National Youth Justice Action Month” was introduced by Representatives Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) and David Trone (MD-6) “to shine a light on the broken juvenile justice model that prioritizes incarceration over rehabilitation and support.” Please thank @RepCardenas and @RepDavidTrone for recognizing the need for change and introducing this resolution. And thank you to the Campaign for Youth Justice for their initiation of and continued dedication to growing the movement for youth justice through #YJAM!

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