Today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced a bill that aims to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), our country’s broadest federal juvenile justice law. The measure, which was first enacted 40 years ago–and last reauthorized in 2002–addresses four key issues for young people who are involved in the juvenile justice system: racial and ethnic disparities; holding youth in adult jails; separation of incarcerated youth and adults by both sight and sound barriers; and the incarceration of children for status offenses, e.g. skipping school, missing curfew, and running away from home.
“Reauthorization of the JJDPA is long overdue,” said Sarah Bryer, director of the National Juvenile Justice Network. “It gives crucial guidance to states on how to ensure their justice systems keep communities safe and protect children in trouble with the law. Yet the existing law hasn’t kept pace with what we’ve learned about how to do that, including new research on adolescent brain development and the efficacy — and fiscal soundness — of community-based alternatives as compared to incarceration.”
Reintroducing the JJDPA is an important step forward. This bill marks the first bi-partisan reintroduction of the JJDPA in five years. “We recognize that there is limited time left on the 2014 legislative calendar,” said Bryer. “We are hopeful that Senator Grassley will continue to see this issue as a priority when he assumes leadership of the Senate Judiciary