SOURCE: Fight Crime: Invest in Kids

Mission: Readiness

July 23, 2015 16:43 ET

Senate Judiciary Committee Vote to Reauthorize JJDPA Will Prevent Juvenile Offenders From Becoming Adult Criminals

Long-Overdue Renewal Reflects New Research and Will Save Taxpayer Dollars

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - July 23, 2015) - With a strong showing of bipartisan leadership, the Senate Judiciary Committee today voted to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), strengthening the existing law to reflect new research and fund programs that will prevent juvenile offenders from becoming adult criminals. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are the lead sponsors on the bill.

The bill passed by the Committee encourages use of interventions with a proven impact on reducing recidivism, as an alternative to detention, based on research that shows placing low-to-moderate offenders in custody may be counterproductive for the youth and detrimental to public safety. One landmark study found that for all but 9 percent of juveniles facing custody -- the very high-risk group -- diversion to local, effective youth programs reduced the rate of re-offending more than placement in juvenile facilities.

"We are very pleased that the Senate Judiciary Committee has passed an updated bill to ensure that juvenile offenders are held accountable for their actions while being offered the tools to become more productive members of society," said John C. Werden, Carroll County (IA) Attorney and Fight Crime: Invest in Kids member. "Putting youth who have committed minor offenses among serious offenders in custody paves the way to a training ground for more delinquent behavior and greatly increases the likelihood that they get into more serious trouble later. This new law will help ensure I don't see the offenders I meet as juveniles again as adults."

Because they reduce recidivism rates, effective community-based interventions funded by the updated law will save taxpayer dollars as well. Since these programs are now only available to a limited extent, prosecutors and judges are often left with only two choices for juvenile offenders: probation, which may be too lenient, or custody, which may not be the most effective approach for that youth.

"Under the current law, I cannot argue before a judge for evidence-based interventions that are not available in my county, even though they may clearly be the most appropriate approach," said County Attorney Werden. "But this new bill incentivizes the use of alternative interventions that have had a proven impact for reducing recidivism, protecting public safety and saving taxpayer dollars."

The bill will now move to the full Senate for consideration. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids urges all members of Congress to support this important legislation, and move it forward to enactment.

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is an anti-crime organization of nearly 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, and violence survivors. We take a hard look at the research about what prevents kids from becoming criminals and put that information in the hands of policymakers and the general public.

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