Blog | December 2, 2021

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids 25th Anniversary - JJDPA Reauthorization

Former Council for a Strong America federal policy staff member Kara Kempski shares memories from working on the 2018 JJDPA reauthorization

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, or JJDPA, was reauthorized for five years at the end of 2018

  • Around 2014, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley approached Fight Crime: Invest in Kids asking if our members would provide input in a closed-door hearing about the renewal of a juvenile justice law, the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act (JJDPA).
  • Caroll County Attorney John Werden came to Washington from Iowa and made the case for reauthorizing JJDPA – which hadn’t been renewed since 2002 – and to include language that would direct more resources to evidence-based programs. Werden explained the research that demonstrates these interventions can reduce recidivism rates among youth by more than 50 percent. These recommendations made it into the final legislation.

  • Following that meeting, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids members from all over the country met with members of Congress, held press events, wrote opinion pieces for their local newspapers, and sent a letter of support to Congress that was signed by more than 1,200 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, and violence survivors. A report Fight Crime: Invest in Kids released leading up to the JJDPA authorization said it best: “Never is Better but Once is Enough.” Fight Crime: Invest in Kids National Leadership Council members Carroll County (IA) Attorney John Werden and Lafayette (IN) Police Chief Patrick Flannelly testified at three private and public hearings.

  • In 2018, for the first time, both the House and Senate passed JJDPA renewal legislation, albeit different versions. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) were lead sponsors of the Senate legislation, and in the House of Representatives, similar legislation was led by Rep. Lewis (R-MN) and Rep. Scott (D-VA).

  • After four years of hearing from law enforcement across the country - including Chief Patrick Flannelly’s two trips from Lafayette, IN to Washington, DC to testify before Congress - a reauthorized JJDPA unanimously cleared both the House and the Senate and was signed into law by President Trump in late 2018.

This reauthorization was a huge win for public dollars. Putting youth in costly incarceration does little to prevent them from committing crimes again – yet our country still spends more than $5 billion each year to keep juvenile offenders in facilities. JJDPA funds community-based approaches that have been shown to reduce recidivism rates, specifically by coaching youth and their families and addressing the root causes of many criminal behaviors. By cutting recidivism, these interventions can save the public between $6,000 and $26,000 per youth served – a stark contrast to the $88,000 annual average cost it takes to care for just one youth in juvenile custody.


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