Judiciary Committee Reports Bill To Address Juvenile Crime

The Senate Judiciary Committee today reported a bill to address issues related to deterring crime among young people, one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations.  The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) was introduced last month by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.).  The reauthorization bill has received bipartisan support in the Senate. 

Leahy, Specter and Kohl introduced the bill in June to reauthorize the JJDPA, which was originally enacted in 1974.  The legislation reauthorizes a series of competitive grant programs through the Department of Justice to reduce crime among youths and recidivism in the juvenile justice system.  The reauthorization bill addresses growing concern about holding youths in adult prisons, and establishes limits on the detention of juveniles for status offenses.  The JJDPA also provides funding for mental health and drug treatment for juvenile offenders.  It also encourages states to improve state and local juvenile justice systems and address the overrepresentation of minorities in the system, and provides incentives through improvement grants to help states comply with the JJDPA.

The Judiciary Committee held a hearing in December to explore how best to address the needs of states in combating juvenile crime.  The introduction of the JJDPA in June followed months of debate and research.  The bill has received the support of dozens of youth justice and advocacy groups.  

“This legislation seeks to move the country in new directions to protect our communities and give our children the chance they need to grow up to be productive members of society,” said Leahy.  “But we were careful to do so with full respect for the discretion due to law enforcement and judges, with deference to states, and with a regard for difficult fiscal realities.  I hope all Senators will support this carefully balanced legislation.”

“Despite the nationwide recognition of the importance that role models and mentoring play in youth development, there remains an unfortunate shortage of programs devoted to stemming youth delinquency,” Specter said.  “Through mentoring and other programs, this Act will help to prevent delinquency and promote rehabilitation, so that young offenders are less likely to become stuck in the criminal justice system.  I am pleased to be a cosponsor, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to pass this legislation.” 

“The most effective strategy to combat juvenile crime includes a large dose of prevention and intervention programs.  Juvenile justice programs have proven time and time again that they help prevent crime, strengthen communities, and rehabilitate juvenile offenders.  This legislation has always had a dual focus: prevention and rehabilitation,” Kohl said. 

Highlights of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act follow.  Leahy’s statement on the Committee’s consideration of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act is below.

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