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Bipartisan consensus on strengthening federal law to reduce incarceration, make state juvenile justice systems more fair, improve public safety

Posted in 2015 Press Releases, Press Releases

act4jjYouth, family and juvenile justice advocates endorse reintroduction of bill to support states efforts to improve their juvenile justice systems, protect kids, and build safer communities.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 30, 2015) - Juvenile justice advocates across the country applaud Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for the re-introduction of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2015, to reauthorize and strengthen the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act of 1974 (JJDPA). The bill is very similar to legislation introduced last December in the last days of the 113th Congress.

Signed into law by President Gerald Ford on September 7, 1974, and 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.

More than seven years overdue for reauthorization, the JJDPA is the only federal statute that sets out national standards for the custody and care of youth in the juvenile justice system and provides direction and support for state juvenile justice system improvements. The JJDPA also supports programs and practices that have significantly contributed to the reduction of delinquency.

"We are grateful for Senator Grassley's and Senator Whitehouse's continued commitment to strengthening protections for our young people who are involved with the juvenile justice system," said Marie Williams, Co-Chair of ACT4JJ and Executive Director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. "As expected, the new legislation tightens the accountability of states who receive funding under the Act and helps ensure that young people receive the protections, services, and supports they need."

Despite a continuing decline in youth delinquency, more than 60,000 young people are held in detention centers awaiting trial or confined by the courts in juvenile facilities in the U.S. For these confined youth, and the many more kids at-risk of involvement in the justice system, the JJDPA and programs it supports are critical. Youth who are locked up are separated from their families and many witness violence. These youth struggle when they get out, trying to complete high school, get jobs, housing, or go to college. Aside from the human toll, the financial costs of maintaining large secure facilities have also made it vital to rethink juvenile justice in every community.

"The bill brings the JJDPA in line with what research tells us and states know-that incarcerating kids, particularly status offenders, and locking kids up with adults causes harm and does not reduce crime and delinquency," said Marcy Mistrett, Co-Chair of ACT4JJ and Chief Executive Officer of the Campaign for Youth Justice. "This bill reaffirms a national commitment to the rehabilitative purpose of the juvenile justice system; one that supports developmentally appropriate practices that treat as many youth as possible in their communities. It is both cost effective and the morally right thing to do."

Key provisions in include:

  • Phase-out of the Loophole that Allows Status Offenders to Be Locked Up
    • While current federal law prohibits detaining youth for status offenses (like truancy and running away from home), youth can be ordered by a court not to do these things as a condition of release through a court order. Many youth are subsequently detained for technical violations of such a valid court order. Many states have already prohibited use of this exception - known as the VCO exception - in light of research that shows it is harmful to youth development and is costly, especially when compared to community-based alternatives. The bill calls on all states to phase out use of the VCO exception over the next three years.
  • Strengthening of Protections to Keep Youth out of Adult Jails and Prisons
    • Research shows youth confined in adult jails and lock-ups are more likely to re-offend upon release and, while confined, are at pronounced high risk of suffering assault and committing suicide. The bill extends the jail removal and sight and sound core protections to keep youth awaiting trial in criminal court out of adult lock-ups and ensures sight and sound separation from adult inmates in the limited circumstances where they are held in adult facilities.
  • Supports for State Efforts to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities
    • The bill gives clear direction to states and localities to plan and implement data-driven approaches to ensure fairness and reduce racial and ethnic disparities, to set measurable objectives for reduction of disparities in the system, and to publicly report such efforts.

For more information go to www.ACT4JJ.org.


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About Act 4 Juvenile Justice - Act 4 Juvenile Justice (ACT4JJ) is a campaign of the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition (NJJDPC), which represents over 80 national organizations who work on youth development and juvenile justice issues. ACT4JJ is composed of juvenile justice, child welfare and youth development organizations advocating for the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) and increased federal funding for juvenile justice programs and services.

CFYJ Applauds President Obama For Continued Support of Criminal Justice Reform

Posted in Press Releases

WASHINGTON (January 13, 2016) -- The Campaign for Youth Justice, CEO Marcy Mistrett issued the following statement in response to President Obama's State of the Union Address:

"We were pleased to hear that President Obama has made criminal justice reform among his top priorities for his last year in office. We look forward to learning more and we do hope that the President makes juvenile justice a top priority with reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act (JJDPA), the only federal act that exists to protect children who are detained and removed for their families. It articulates the minimum standards for treatment of children that states deem necessary to place in secure detention.

We also appreciate that President Obama shone a light on criminal justice reform by inviting Connecticut Gov. Tom Malloy, as a special guest. Currently, Malloy is pushing to make Connecticut the first state to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility to 21. This initiative has drawn the attention of the White House, which invited Malloy to attend the State of the Union tonight, and a community of reformers across the political spectrum engaged in reevaluating policies that have given the U.S. the world’s highest incarceration rate.

Also in attendance as a special guest of First Lady Michelle Obama was Sue Ellen Allen, a criminal justice advocate known for her organization Gina’s Team, which supports women in Arizona prisons and upon release, gives them the resources they need and teaches them how give back to the community. She wrote the President to thank him for the launch of a new pilot program that enables incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and to encourage a national dialogue that includes women in prison reform. These are the same issues that we see time and time again with young girls in the adult criminal justice system, we appreciate attention being given to this segment of criminal justice reform efforts.

The Obama's were not the only ones with special guests to help raise the voice on this issue.  U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley, Calif.) welcomed juvenile justice advocate Calvin King, a second grade teacher at Christina Seix Academy (CSA) in Trenton, NJ.  Calvin a youth formerly charged as an adult, rebounded from his time involved in the system to give back to the community, in a way that has positively affected hundreds of lives. Along with his work in schools, Calvin is a recipient of the Presidential Service Award for 2000 hours of community service, and also an ambassador to the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.

CFYJ applauds this administration for their commitment to youth justice and criminal justice reform. We look forward to continue working together as partners to make more progress and change to create a system that promotes child well-being by incorporating evidence based practices that keep communities safe and that gives children developmentally appropriate services."

The Campaign for Youth Justice, based in Washington, DC, is dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under 18 in the adult criminal justice system.

Congratulations to Missouri on Raising The Age

Posted in 2018 Press Releases , Press Releases

New Legislation Will Improve Public Safety, Save Taxpayer Dollars, and Result in Better Outcomes for Vulnerable Young People

WASHINGTON (May 11, 2018) - The Missouri General Assembly has voted to increase the age for automatically trying youth as adults from 17 to 18, and the legislation will now be headed to Governor Greitens for his signature, paving the way for criminal cases against youth who are under the age of 18 to begin in the juvenile court system.

Currently in Missouri, children are automatically charged, jailed, and imprisoned as adults the day they turn 17, even for the most minor offenses. Missouri is one of just five states that try 17-year-olds in adult courts. Before a young person can vote, serve on juries, join the military, or buy a lottery ticket — he or she can be arrested, tried and imprisoned as an adult in the state.

A similar proposal was approved by the House last year, but never made it through the Senate.

Missouri’s juvenile justice system has long been recognized nationally as a model program, and effectively provides alternatives to incarceration that maximize positive outcomes for youth. Under current law, 17 year olds who commit a crime enter the adult justice system even if their offenses are non-violent or misdemeanors, as is the case for the large majority of 17 year olds. These youth would be better served in Missouri’s well-respected juvenile system in the short and long term.

“This legislation has been in the works for a long time, we are so happy to finally see Missouri Raise The Age!" said Marcy Mistrett, CEO at the Campaign for Youth Justice."The measure will keep more young people out of the dangerous adult criminal justice system. It will also lead to better outcomes for public safety, as children who retain access to the educational and rehabilitative programs of the juvenile justice system are known to have significantly lower rates of recidivism than those who are tried and punished as adults."

The Campaign for Youth Justice thanks the Missouri Raise The Age Coalition who organized the efforts to ensure Missouri's youth will have the chance for a bright future. CFYJ would like to especially thank,Tracy McClard the founder of Families and Friends Organized to Reform Juvenile Justice (FORJ-MO).Tracy has lead the fight pushing tirelessly for passage of this legislation in remembrance of her son, Jonathan McClard, who committed suicide in an adult facility at the age of 17, fearing he would be sentenced to a long prison term with adults.

"I'm greatly relieved that this population of Missouri’s youth are finally going to be protected from the adult criminal justice system whose leadership galvanized advocates efforts to Raise the Age. “It' been a long road.  Thank you Senator Wallingford for fighting alongside me for almost a decade.”

Once it is fully implemented, raising the age will improve public safety, save taxpayer dollars, treat families fairly, and get better outcomes for vulnerable young people.

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About the Campaign for Youth Justice:

The Campaign for Youth Justice, based in Washington, DC, is dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under 18 in the adult criminal justice system.

New Brief Highlights State Efforts to Remove Youth from Adult Jails

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press Contact:

Aprill Turner
Communication Director
Campaign for Youth Justice
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New Brief Highlights State Efforts to Remove Youth from Adult Jails

Washington, D.C. (June 20, 2019) -  “Removing Youth from Adult Jails: A 50-State Scan of Pretrial Detention Laws for Youth Transferred to the Adult System,” a new brief by the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ), highlights state readiness to remove children under age 18 from adult jails.

The brief was released in response to the passage of the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 (JJRA), signed into law on December 21, 2018. The JJRA reauthorized the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) for the first time in sixteen years and, in addition to many other important reforms, the law will now require states to remove all youth, including those transferred to the adult system, from adult jails and lock-ups pretrial.

A scan of all 50 states revealed that many states have moved quicker than the federal government in calling for the removal of youth with adult charges from jails; with 70% of youth charged as adults already housed in youth facilities. The vast majority of states permit or require youth charged as adults to be held in juvenile facilities pre-trial, including states like Kentucky, New Mexico, and Ohio. Yet, with 1 in 10 youth still being housed in adult facilities pre-trial, the brief underscores the urgency of responding to these youth in a more age-appropriate manner. Unlike juvenile detention facilities, adult jails are not designed with a focus on rehabilitation, and staff receive little or no training on the social, emotional, or psychological needs of children, nor do they provide adjustments to physical techniques used to control older inmates.

The new brief includes excerpts from interviews conducted by CFYJ of young people who were transferred to the adult system and are currently detained in juvenile facilities. “While research has shown us just how harmful it is to house youth in adult facilities, our conversations with young people who were first housed in adult jails before being moved to juvenile facilities is very eye-opening,” said CFYJ Federal Policy Counsel Rachel Marshall. “The young people we spoke to emphasized the different approaches from staff and access to programming and education while in the youth facilities. They talked about being maced and locked-down in adult jails, but used words like “care” and “love” when describing staff in youth facilities.”

The report calls on states to take a multi-step approach to removing youth from adult jails and lock-ups, including:

  • Updating state statutes to prohibit the detention of youth in adult jails and lock-ups;
  • Urging members of Congress to fully fund the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act so that states have the assistance of federal dollars to make necessary changes to remove youth from adult jails and lock-ups;
  • Raising the age of criminal responsibility; and
  • Limiting the pathways of transfer into the adult system.

Download the full report here.

View the statutes of all 50 states here.

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