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Articles tagged with: Jill Ward

The JJDPA (Still) Matters: Celebrating 40 Years of Reform

Jill Ward Monday, 08 September 2014 Posted in 2014, Across the Country

This post is part of the JJDPA Matters blog, a project of the Act4JJ Campaign with help from SparkAction. The JJDPA, the nation's landmark juvenile justice law, turns 40 this month. Each month leading up to this anniversary, Act4JJ member organizations and allies have posted blogs on issues related to the JJDPA. To learn more and take action in support of JJDPA, visit the Act4JJ JJDPA Matters Action Center, powered by SparkAction.

On Sept. 7, 2014, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (JJDPA)—the nation’s main law governing state juvenile justice programs—turned 40. This week, advocates from across the country will be taking time to reflect on the importance of this landmark federal law and how it can be made even stronger.

Advocates Gather to Discuss the History and Importance of Landmark JJDPA Legislation

Friday, 18 October 2013 Posted in 2013, Federal Update

 

By Jill Ward

Yesterday, advocates from the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition and related ACT4JJ Campaigngathered to learn more about the history of the landmark federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) and why it is still important today.

Mark Soler
The day opened with Mark Soler from the Center for Children’s Law and Policy talking about the estimated 500,000 children that were being held in adult jails across the country in the early 1970s.  A majority of these children were either status offenders who were being picked up for non-criminal offenses like truancy, breaking curfew, and running away from home, or youth detained for very minor, non-violent offenses. 

Take the story of a 15-year-old girl who was held in an upstairs cell in a county jail who hanged herself; or the story of a 17-year-old boy who was held in adult prison for not paying $73 in traffic tickets and was beaten over a 14-hour period and finally murdered by others in the cell; or the story of a 13-year-old boy in Maine who was detained for stealing a dirt bike and was raped in the same cell..  And the list went on.

Understanding that this needed to change, in 1974, as part of the JJDPA, Congress prohibited placing these youth in secure facilities and also called for young people in the juvenile system to have “sight and sound” separation from adults in the criminal justice system.  These protections reflected increasing tragedies involving young people being held in adult jails and with adult inmates. In 1980, Congress added a further protection calling for youth in the juvenile justice system to be removed entirely from adult jails and lock-ups with very limited exceptions.

While judges in many states are effectively and proactively addressing the needs of these youth without resorting to detention, too many young people are still unnecessarily finding their way into the juvenile justice system.

 

Liz Ryan, Marc Schindler, and Jill Ward   
Through a reauthorization of the JJDPA, Congress can strengthen the core protections by eliminating the Valid Court Order (VCO) exception, that has allowed status offenders to continue to be locked up for their second and subsequent offenses, to keep all status offenders out of jails and other secure facilities and direct them toward community-based alternatives.  A reauthorization can also further strengthen the sight and sound and removal protections to ensure that no young person under age 18 is held in adult facilities or has contact with adult inmates. 

We also heard from former Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Administrator, John Wilson, who talked about how the agency evolved and worked to implement the JJDPA.  Attendees heard about the strong partnership between Congress and the Administration that existed in the 1970s and into the 1980s to enact the law and work on subsequent reauthorizations. 

Over lunch Bobby Vassar, former House Judiciary Committee Counsel, talked about attempts in the 1990s to amend the law to further criminalize youth and roll back JJDPA core protections for children and how those efforts were defeated.
The day ended with a discussion about the important role of the NJJDP Coalition and advocates across the country to continue to educate the public and key policymakers about how the law has helped protect children involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems and supported state efforts to prevent youth crime and reduce recidivism.  What was clear from the day is that the JJDPA remains a critical tool to incentivize states to keep system-involved youth safe and help them more appropriately meet the needs of youth in crisis.

Currently, the JJDPA is more than 5 years overdue for reauthorization and funding levels continue to decline.  We can’t afford to turn the clock back on the advances made by the JJDPA.  Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) is the perfect time to let your federal leaders know that the JJDPA matters and deserves their support.

Please visit the JJDPA Matters Action Center to contact your Senators and Representative and let them know the JJDPA matters to you!

To learn more about the JJDPA and the campaign to reauthorize and fund the law go to:  http://www.act4jj.org/

 

 

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Why Federal Dollars Matter

Sunday, 13 October 2013 Posted in 2013, Across the Country

 
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.

Join us this week in continuing the conversation on youth justice issues, follow us on Facebook and Twitter using: 

 

#JJDPAmatters #YJAM #JUSTinvest #youthjustice

 

JJDPA Matters

Monday, 09 September 2013 Posted in 2013, Research & Policy

 

 
 


By Jill Ward

 

“It is therefore the further declared policy of Congress to provide the necessary resources, leadership, and coordination (1) to develop and implement effective methods of preventing and reducing juvenile delinquency; (2) to develop and conduct effective programs to prevent delinquency, to divert juveniles from the traditional juvenile justice system and to provide critically needed alternatives to institutionalization; (3) to improve the quality of juvenile justice in the United States; and (4) to increase the capacity of State and local governments and public and private agencies to conduct effective juvenile justice and delinquency prevention and rehabilitation programs and to provide research, evaluation, and training services in the field of juvenile delinquency prevention.” - PUBLIC LAW 93-415-SEPT. 7, 1974

This, in part, is the originally stated purpose of the landmark federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) signed into law by President Gerald Ford on September 7, 1974.  Thirty-nine years later, that purpose still rings true.

Back then, leaders in the juvenile and criminal justice field recognized the need for national leadership to address the all too common practice of jailing children with adults, the overuse of incarceration to respond to non-violent and status offenses, and the lack of alternatives to appropriately meet the needs of young people in ways that helped them and strengthened the community.  Congress stepped up and passed this bi-partisan law to provide policy direction and support for states. 

Most recently reauthorized in 2002, the JJDPA embodies a partnership between the federal government and the U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia to protect children and youth in the juvenile and criminal justice system, to effectively address high-risk and delinquent behavior and to improve community safety.  It is the only federal law that sets out national standards for the custody and care of youth in the juvenile justice system, provides direction and support for state juvenile justice system improvements, and supports programs and practices that have significantly contributed to the reduction of juvenile crime and delinquency.

At the heart of the Act are four core protections that states must adhere to in order to receive federal support for their state system.  These protections help ensure the health and well-being of youth:

•    Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders (DSO) keeps status offenders, such as runaways and truants, out of secure facilities;
•    Adult Jail and Lockup removal (Jail Removal) prevents youth from being placed in adults jails and lock-ups (with limited exceptions);
•    Sight and Sound Separation provides that when youth are held with adults (as occurs in limited instances) they be separated by both sight and sound from adult offenders;
•    Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) requires that states address the disproportionate contact of youth of color at key contact points in the juvenile justice system – from arrest to detention to confinement.

By most all accounts, the law has been a success.  The JJDPA has created a national floor that incentivizes states to embrace these core principles.  The federal dollars that flow through the law also help fund both evidence-based programs and promising new innovations and are critical in leveraging other state and local funding to improve state justice systems and reduce recidivism.  Without a strong federal law that is sufficiently resourced, we risk losing a major tool to help sustain current protections for youth and to advance additional reform. 

Unfortunately, federal funding has been repeatedly cut over the last decade.  Federal dollars available to support implementation of the JJDPA and other state and local reforms has steadily declined by 83 percent from 1999 to 2010.   And, the recent budget sequestration has further diminished federal investment in states to develop and implement state and local prevention and early intervention efforts that keep kids on the right track and contribute to the prevention and reduction of youth crime and violence.

Ensuring that the JJDPA does not continue to suffer drastic cuts or is not completely defunded is particularly critical to states’ compliance with the jail removal and separation core protections.  Although funding has diminished drastically since 2000, the limited funding states continue to receive through Title II of the JJDPA has helped the majority of states comply with the core protections.  Loss of JJDPA funds would be a huge step backward as many states would have little incentive or ability to comply with these protections, further undercutting policies to keep youth out of adult jails and prisons and other de-incarceration efforts.

Federally supported juvenile justice programs also enable communities to provide critical treatment and rehabilitative services, in safe conditions, that are tailored to the needs of youth and their families; protects public safety; and holds youth accountable.  Continued federal cuts will threaten these efforts to keep youth and families safe, and keep juvenile crime rates down.

The 39th birthday of this landmark law is the right time to highlight how far we’ve come and to make sure the purpose laid out nearly 40 years ago this month continues to be advanced and supported by Congress.  

In recognition of the passage of the JJDPA, advocates are making September 10 a National Day of Action to call on Congress to invest in the JJDPA and related juvenile justice programs.



Tell Congress we must continue to invest in the policies and programs that work for all our young people.   Tell them JJDPA matters.

This is part of the ACT4JJ Campaign's JJDPA Matters Blog Project, a 16-week series that launched Sept. 10, 2013. You can find the full series at the JJDPA Matters Action Center, click here.



What Can Be Done For Girls in the Juvenile Justice System?

Thursday, 06 June 2013 Posted in 2013, Take Action Now

By Mackenzie Tudor

 

On May 17th, the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) and The National Crittenton Foundation participated in a workshop entitled, “What Can Be Done For Girls in the Juvenile Justice System?” at the Association for Junior Leagues International Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., where they discussed system-involved girls and girls at risk of becoming involved in the justice system and what can be done to help. The Junior League has a rich history in juvenile justice advocacy and was actively involved in the 1970s and 80s in the development and subsequent reauthorizations of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

Moderated by Jill Ward, panelists CFYJ CEO Liz Ryan, Crittenton Foundation President Jeannette Pai-Espinosa, and Just Kids Partnership Advocate Jabreria Handy, spoke about the issues surrounding the rise in the number of girls in the juvenile justice system and the ways that Junior League Members could get involved.

 

The highlight of the event was Jabreria Handy. At the age of 16, Jabreria was charged as an adult in the criminal justice system for a crime that she did not commit. She spent 11 months in the Baltimore City Detention Center before her case was sent back to the juvenile justice system. She now shares her story to help ensure that no youth will ever have to go through what she experienced. Jabreria’s account of her experience as a youth in the adult criminal system had a powerful impact on the workshop attendees. Jabreria emphasized that programming both in and out of the juvenile justice system is crucial and, unfortunately, is not as available to youth incriminated in the adult system. Providing support to these girls is critical to helping them transition back into the community.

Jabreria’s perspective on what girls need was echoed by Jeannette Pai-Espinosa. The National Crittenton Foundation has conducted research on Adverse Childhood Experiences that included girls in the juvenile justice system. Girls in the juvenile justice system are often victims of abuse, neglect, household dysfunction or substance abuse in the home.  As a result, these girls are more likely to be incarcerated for status offenses, offenses that would not be illegal if the individual was an adult, such as running away from home. Once in the system, girls often fail to receive the services they need, and instead are re-traumatized and derailed from educational achievement.

This discussion clearly resonated with many of the women in attendance. Sparked by Jabreria’s story, there was a clear desire from those in attendance to learn more about how they could help the at-risk girls both in and out of the juvenile justice system.

Liz Ryan identified the following key steps to take to start advocating for girls in your communities:

1. Urge your Governor to implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to ensure that girls are not placed in adult jails and prisons.


2. Contact your Representative and Senators and urge them to provide more federal resources to address the needs of girls in the justice system.


3.  Reach out to the Juvenile Justice Specialist in your state to get information on how your state is addressing gender-specific programming in its JJDPA state plan. http://www.ojjdp.gov/statecontacts/ResourceList.asp

4. Engage your community and plan an event around October 23rd, National Girls Justice Day. Contact Leah Robertson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

5. Contact the National Girls institute and request technical assistance to create programming in your community.  http://www.nationalgirlsinstitute.org

For more take action steps go here.

Want to learn more about girls in the juvenile justice system? Take a look at CFYJ’s resource list here.