In celebration of Youth Justice Awareness Month, you have been hearing a lot about successful state efforts to keep kids out of the adult criminal justice system. You’ve heard personal stories from the field like the one from Tracy McClard, the mom that started it all advocating for reform in Missouri. You saw the State Trends report from Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) that highlights positive developments in states like Colorado, Connecticut and Mississippi.
But states are not the only arena for reform. For nearly four decades, the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) has been supporting state efforts to build effective justice systems that keep youth out of adult jails and prisons, provide appropriate support for system-involved youth, and invest in strategies to prevent crime and reduce recidivism.
Last month, on the 39th anniversary of the passage of this landmark law, I wrote about why JJDPA matters to the state efforts going on around the country and to the thousands of young people who come in contact with our justice system. Strong federal policy, like the JJDPA, sets a standard for how system-involved youth should be treated and brings to bear resources to help states achieve that standard. This helps create a more favorable climate for reform that advocates across the country can leverage.
Whether you are a seasoned state advocate or a young person just starting out, you can use the JJDPA as the basis for advancing policies on the ground. Whether you want to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction and keep more youth out of adult facilities, reduce racial disparities, or resource alternatives to the more costly and detrimental practices of detention and incarceration, support for these policies are reflected in the JJDPA.
What happens at the national level can and does influence what happens in states and communities across the country. That’s why CFYJ along with other national and state coalition partners in the ACT4JJ Campaign continue to press Congress to reauthorize and adequately fund this important law.
You can help. As we all take the month of October to recognize the many advances in states across the country, we encourage you to take a few minutes to check out the JJDPA Matters Action Center and let your national leaders know you support the JJDPA and related juvenile justice funding. Let them know that federal policies and programs can be part of the solution for youth in your community. Let them know that the JJDPA matters to you.
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