Home News Center Federal Juvenile Justice Update - November - December 2021

Federal Juvenile Justice Update - November - December 2021

December 3, 2021
Melissa C. Goemann

Amicus Curiae Brief for Terence Andrus Filed in U.S. Supreme Court

The Youth Justice Law Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law filed an amicus curiae brief for petitioner Terence Andrus on behalf of several organizations including the National Juvenile Justice Network.  Terence was sentenced as a young adult to execution in Texas. He was appointed a deficient trial lawyer who failed to properly advocate for him and was sentenced to die by a jury that heard nothing about Terence’s child abuse and traumas. He is requesting a fair capital sentencing hearing where he can be represented by competent counsel who understands the importance of mitigation investigation, expert testimony, and presentation of evidence relating to childhood traumas.

Press Conference on Bipartisan Legislation to Treat Children Like Children in the Federal Legal System

During Youth Justice Action Month in October, James Dold of Human Rights for Kids organized a press conference to urge passage of bipartisan legislation to treat children like children in the federal criminal legal system. Representative Tony Cárdenas (D- CA) joined advocates, including Alyson Clements of NJJN, to advocate for the bill package. Below is the bill package summary from the press release:
H.R. 2834/S. 2498, the Protecting Miranda Rights for Kids Act, by Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-CA) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) - requires parents to be notified when a child is arrested and requires that the child consult with legal counsel before they can waive their constitutional rights and be subject to a custodial interrogation. Approximately 700,000 children are arrested every year in the United States. In most cases these children waive their constitutional rights without fully understanding what they are or the consequences of waiver.

H.R. 2908 by Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) - establishes a minimum age of 12 for criminal culpability for children; increases the minimum age for a child to be tried as an adult from 13 to 16; eliminates the felony murder rule for children; prohibits the placement of children in adult jails or prisons; requires data collection on youth who come into the federal criminal justice system; and establishes a grant block program for treatment and services for children under 12 and child victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

Between 2013 and 2018 more than 30,000 children under the age of 10 were arrested and subsequently faced delinquency or criminal proceedings. Children this young can never form the Mens Rea necessary to be found competent to stand trial. At the federal level, there is no minimum age for arresting children. 

H.R. 2858 by Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) - would retroactively end life and de facto life without parole by giving individuals convicted of crimes as children the ability to petition a judge for sentencing review and modification after serving 20 years; give judges the ability to depart from mandatory minimums when sentencing children (up to 35% away from the minimum); and protect child sex crime victims from harsh sentencing when they commit acts of violence against their abusers.

For girls, the violence they experience prior to entering the system is particularly acute with nearly half having been exposed to 5 or more Adverse Childhood Experiences. Approximately 80% of girls sentenced to life imprisonment were victims of both physical and sexual abuse. 

S. 1014 by Senators Durbin (D-IL) & Grassley (R-IA) - would retroactively end life and de facto life without parole by giving individuals convicted of crimes as children the ability to petition a judge for sentencing review and modification after serving 20 years. There are approximately 10,000 children serving life or life equivalent sentences in the United States. The U.S. is the only nation that continues to sentence children to die in prison.

Here is a link to the full press conference.

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:

  • October 19, 2021– The Federal School Discipline and Climate Group (FedSDC) and 516 undersigned organizations and individuals, sent this letter in support of the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act of 2021 (CNC) which diverts federal funding away from police in schools, and toward evidence-based and trauma-informed services that create culturally-sustaining and positive learning environments.  
  • October 25, 2021– sign-on letter urging strong support of the proposal in S.1927 to guarantee legal counsel for children and parents involved in child welfare court proceedings.  
  • November 8, 2021 – Act4JJ sign-on letter urging Congress to fully fund critical juvenile justice programs at the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) in its final FY22 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill.  
  • November, 2021– Letter urging allocation of $150 million for the Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) program within the Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration, which provides competitive grants to nonprofit workforce development organizations to provide employment and reentry services for adults and youth with criminal legal histories and for youth who have not completed school. 

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