Investing Smarter: Why We Cannot Afford to Shortchange Juvenile Justice
By Leah Robertson
The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) provides funds to states that follow a series of federal protections, commonly known as the “core protections,” to address the care and treatment of youth in the justice system. It is a modest, targeted investment that not only helps children but also saves money. Unfortunately, funding for this law has drastically declined over the last decade and continues to be threatened by spending cuts.
This is why a wide array of organizations have been sending letters three days a week for the last eight weeks as part of a Letter-A-Day campaign to urge Senate and House Appropriations Committees to maintain funding for key JJDPA and and related juvenile justice programs. More than XX letters have been sent so far, and other organizations will continue to send their letters throughout the summer. The diversity and number of organizations dedicated to advocating for this funding demonstrates just how far these monies go and their importance to so many communities.
What do these critical federal dollars support? The funding being advocated for helps states protect children at risk of unnecessary damage by the justice system, and save money by reducing crime and keeping youth from entering the far more costly justice system. The value added by investing in our youth for tomorrow is far greater than the price tag today. Meanwhile, the cost of inaction is high. According to a Vera Institute study of 4/5 of states’, taxpayers gave $39 billion to corrections in FY2010, and that number continues to climb nonsensically every year. By supporting a modest federal investment through programs like those supported by the JJPDA monies, we will save money both now by reducing the cost of corrections and in the future by reducing incarceration rates.
Diverting children with little risk of future delinquent behavior to community-based programs where they can participate with their peers in positive behavioral model is right and makes sense. We commend all of the groups that have taken action and those that will take action in the coming weeks to maintain this funding and invest in a smarter and brighter tomorrow.
If you are an individual who would like to get involved, please sign the House and Senate petitions and share these with your family and friends.
We will continue to update you on this critical effort.