ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Dec. 11, 2014) — Today, a bill to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) was introduced in the Senate as a means to improve and strengthen the juvenile justice system in the United States. The JJDPA, which was signed into law in 1974, prevents children and youth from entering the juvenile justice system and protects those currently in the system.
Since the passage of the JJDPA, thousands of children and youth have been provided with family and community-based alternatives to incarceration and kept separate from adults in detention. While the impact of the JJDPA over the last 40 years has been remarkable, improvements need to be made to the nation’s juvenile justice system. Loopholes left in the JJDPA as well as amendments made to the law over the years have weakened its protections and resulted in thousands of children and youth being detained for minor offenses such as skipping school. Additionally, research shows that minority youth are overrepresented in the system.
“Juvenile justice and delinquency prevention is a key public policy priority of National PTA, and the association applauds Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for introducing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2014,” said Otha Thornton, president of National PTA. “Reauthorization of the JJDPA is long overdue, and National PTA urges Congress to prioritize the issue in 2015 and take swift action to improve the juvenile justice system for our nation’s youth.”
The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2014 would authorize funding for the law for five years and strengthen protections established in the JJDPA, including phasing out an exception that currently allows for the detainment of youth who have committed minor offenses. The bill also includes:
- Provisions to ensure the continuity of children’s education while detained;
- Direction on how to reduce racial and ethnic disparities among youth in the juvenile justice system; and
- Improved standards for detaining youth to ensure they are kept separate from adults.
Since 1899, National PTA has advocated for policies that protect the rights of children and youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system. PTA was one of the first associations to encourage federal and state lawmakers to create a safe and rehabilitative justice system for children by establishing separate court and probation systems from those serving adults. Today, National PTA continues to support programs that work to prevent juvenile delinquency and provide youth currently in the system with services to help them become productive members of society. These programs promote public safety and their success requires adequate federal investment.