Scott Introduces Bill to Reauthorize Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act

June 11, 2015
Press Release

As originally released by the Committee on Education and the Workforce, Democrats

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) today announced the introduction of H.R. 2728, the Youth Justice Act of 2015. The legislation would reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) of 1974, which has not been reauthorized by Congress in over a decade. The bill reinforces federal safeguards for state juvenile justice systems, by renewing education, safety, and prevention standards for our nation’s youth. The legislation is based on S. 2999, a bipartisan bill that was introduced on December 11, 2014 by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

Joining Ranking Member Scott as original co-sponsors of the bill are Reps. Karen Bass (CA-37), Cedric Richmond (LA-02), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), and Tony Cardenas (CA-29) who have all championed youth justice reforms in Congress. JJDPA was last reauthorized in the Committee on Education and the Workforce in 2002.

“We have seen the positive results some states have had from investing in alternatives to incarceration and secure detention,” said Rep. Scott. “We have documented the power evidence-based policies have in both reducing crime and saving money, and we have realized the role that trauma plays in the lives of our disengaged youth and what it takes to get them back on the right track. The Youth Justice Act builds on the strong framework of our colleagues in the Senate, and takes suggestions from our nation’s leading juvenile justice advocates on how we can make our system even safer and more responsive to our youth.”

Today, girls are the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile justice population, and status offenses still remain the primary reason that girls enter the juvenile justice system. Congresswoman Karen Bass, the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, emphasized how the Youth Justice Act is necessary to address the special needs of girls in the juvenile justice system.

“I want to thank Congressman Bobby Scott not just for introducing this legislation, but for your years of leadership to juvenile justice and for championing this issue for years,” said Rep. Bass. “We need to look at why the system is punishing girls more harshly for ‘crimes’ like truancy, running away, curfew violations, incorrigibility or underage drinking. We must stop handing out harsh sentences for small offenses.”

Congressman Cedric Richmond, an advocate for prison and sentencing reform and member of the Committee on Homeland Security, explained the need to fully fund a JJDPA reauthorization to successfully implement evidence-based programs to support juvenile rehabilitation across the country.

“We know that supporting programs that keep our children out of jail is one of the best investments we can make,” added Rep. Richmond, who represents a large portion of the City of New Orleans. “That is why it is so important that we reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, the programs contained in the Youth Justice Act are critical to getting funding for state juvenile justice systems. By keeping more children in school and out of jail, we can reduce the amount we spend on incarceration and make the country safer.”

In 2011, youth of color under the age of 21 represented 45 percent of the youth in the United States, but accounted for 71 percent of youth held in detention nationwide, and 66 percent of youth committed to juvenile facilities upon a determination of delinquency. The Youth Justice Act requires states to take concrete steps to address Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) at every point of contact juveniles have with the system.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a senior member of the Committee on the Judiciary, talked about the impact outdated laws have on families and communities.

“I believe in comprehensive reform to address all aspects of the criminal and juvenile justice system,” said Rep. Jackson Lee. “Today, we know that more and more young children are being arrested, incarcerated, and detained in lengthy out-of-home placements. In some states, such as Maryland, a child as young as 7-years-old is subject to being charged and prosecuted by the Juvenile Court System. The excessive and traumatic removal of children from their schools and the community is unacceptable and causing irreparable damage to young people.”

Congressman Tony Cárdenas, founder of the Crime Prevention and Youth Development Caucus, underscored the importance of early intervention for at-risk youth through H.R. 2728.

“This legislation represents the best possible investment America can make in our future,” said Cárdenas. “The young people of today are going to build the future of our nation. We cannot afford to let any of them fall by the wayside because of a broken system. The Youth Justice Act will allow us to focus on keeping kids out of that system, while we protect and invest in those already affected, with hopes that they can be rehabilitated and can contribute to the growth of our nation.”

For more information on the Youth Justice Act’s four mandates, click here.

For additional information on the impact of juvenile justice laws across the country, click here.

To read the text of the bill, click here.

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