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Congressman Bobby Scott

Representing the 3rd District of Virginia

JUVENILE JUSTICE REFORM ACT OF 2017

May 23, 2017
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentlewoman from North Carolina (Ms. Foxx) and the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Lewis) for working with this side of the aisle on bipartisan comprehensive reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

   Juvenile courts were established by States in the first half of the 20th century based on the emerging legal theory that children should not be held as fully responsible for their actions as adults, a theory borne out over time by scientific research on impulse control and brain development.

   The opportunity to rehabilitate children became the focus of the system rather than punishment of offenders. Congress first articulated national standards for juvenile justice in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, or JJDPA. Long overdue for reauthorization, the bill creates important core protections for our children in the juvenile justice system in each State.

   In the 15 years since Congress last reauthorized the program, there have been advancements in research and expansion of evidence when it comes to the prevention of youth incarceration and delinquency.

   The bill we will consider today includes necessary improvements to Federal policy grounded in facts proving that the public investments in a continuum of trauma-informed care and alternatives to incarceration and secure detention produce positive results for at-risk youth. These results, in turn, will reduce crime and create long-term savings.

   H.R. 1809 requires, for the first time, that State juvenile justice plans have to take into account the latest scientific research on adolescent development and behavior, recognizing the importance of prevention and early intervention in juvenile crime policy.

   We shouldn't have to legislate this, but we have seen too often that slogans and sound bites have dictated our national approach to crime policy, particularly juvenile crime. These slogans and soundbites often do nothing to decrease crime. In fact, some have been actually shown to increase the crime rate.

   H.R. 1809 encourages States to consider promising practices such as programming to ensure that youth have access to public defenders with juvenile court experience, the use of problem-solving courts as an alternative to probation and confinement, efforts to inform and aid juveniles in the process of sealing and expunging their juvenile records, and programming to

   address the needs of girls in or at risk of entering the system when developing State plans.

   Finally, the bill retools the current title V Local Delinquency Prevention Grant programs retitled as the Youth Promise Incentive Grants for Local Delinquency Prevention Program to support communities in the planning and implementation of evidence-based prevention and intervention programs specifically designed to reduce juvenile delinquency and gang involvement.

   Grant recipients would be required to analyze the unmet delinquency needs of the youth in the community and then develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to address those unmet needs with an emphasis on program coordination.

   Research shows that a community-wide coordinated approach to delinquency prevention that utilizes a continuum of services can actually save the community money and improve efficiencies.

   Mr. Speaker, I would like to especially thank my colleagues for working with me on the title V provisions which are modeled after a bill I have been working on for nearly 10 years, the Youth PROMISE Act. I am confident that, if enacted, this incentive grant program will vastly improve the lives of and long-term economic opportunity for at-risk youth across the country. The collaborative work of this committee gives me hope that we can get full JJDPA reauthorization over the finish line this year.

   Senators GRASSLEY and WHITEHOUSE have introduced a bill in the Senate already. I am optimistic that we will be able to produce a bill together that builds on the knowledge and experience of the last 15 years and makes its way to the President's desk for signature.