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Federal Update - August 2018

August 8, 2018
Melissa Goemann

Concerning Actions by the United States Department of Justice and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) have taken several very damaging actions that affect youth in the justice system, particularly youth of color. We have briefly detailed these actions below and the following resources provide further information:

1) Juvenile justice guidance rescinded
Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded 24 guidance documents on July 3, 2018. The list includes seven OJJDP related documents. Most alarming were the removal of the OJJDP Guidance Manual: Audit of Compliance Monitoring Systems and the OJJDP Disproportionate Minority Contact Technical Assistance Manual. These documents were written to help state and local authorities comply with the JJDPA and improve their strategies to reduce racial and ethnic disparities. The guidance was removed without providing any new guidelines, leaving states directionless. Below are links to the seven OJJDP related guidance documents that were rescinded:

2) Loosening of compliance standards for the DMC core protection
OJJDP Administrator Caren Harp announced that OJJDP will loosen important compliance standards for the disproportionate minority contact (DMC) core protection requirement of the JJDPA, which addresses state efforts to reduce the disproportionality of youth of color in the youth justice system. Harp also made concerning statements suggesting that efforts to reduce DMC may undermine public safety. We strongly reject this false implication.

3) Removing the research arm from OJJDP
The Department of Justice is transferring OJJDP’s research arm to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) as of September 30, 2018. Jeffrey Butts, director of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation Center, warns that this could result in a significantly weaker juvenile justice research program.

4) Grant solicitations
Recent OJJDP grant solicitations have been concerning for a number of reasons. Solicitations for mentoring grants have stripped references to LGBTQ youth and grants for work on gang issues are focusing on suppression over prevention and intervention and are giving a preference to applicants willing to collaborate with federal immigration authorities.

Additionally, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) Program (42 U.S.C. § 3751(a)), which is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions and also supports youth justice funding in many states, has imposed restrictions on their grants related to cooperation with federal immigration authorities. These restrictions require that jails and prisons give ICE 48 hours’ notice before release of a person of interest and that jails and prisons give ICE access to their facilities. This issue is in litigation and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had initially placed a nationwide injunction on the restrictions. However, the court lifted the nationwide injunction in June and restricted it to the plaintiff, the City of Chicago, pending further consideration.

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA)

Both the House and Senate passed JJDPA reauthorization bills last year with overwhelming bipartisan support (S. 860 and H.R. 1809), and there are no significant substantive obstacles to reconciling the bills. We need to continue our outreach to Congress to stress the importance to our communities of getting this bill over the finish line. To that end, we are asking folks to participate in a letter a day campaign leading up to the 44th anniversary of the bills’ 1974 passage on September 7th.  You can send individual letters from this website and sign up for an organizational letter here.

National Sign-on Letters

Youth involved with the justice system often intersect with many other systems serving marginalized populations – such as child welfare, immigration, public health, and housing. To best serve our youth, NJJN signs onto a number of national letters on these issues throughout the year. Please see below for a list of the national letters that NJJN has signed since our last newsletter earlier in the summer and see the federal policy page of our website for a complete list:

7/20/18 – Organizational sign-on letter to oppose the Aderholt amendment to the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill for FY 19 which would allow child welfare and foster care agencies to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and identity.

6/29/18 – National Immigration Project organizational sign-on letter to members of Congress asking them to decriminalize migration – and end Trump’s zero tolerance policy.

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