Blog | September 22, 2016

The House Reauthorizes an Improved JJDPA

Law enforcement leaders fought for--and won--House passage of the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act

The scope of the juvenile crime problem in America is daunting: Approximately 2 million children are currently involved in the juvenile justice system, and many more youth are at risk due to their circumstances.

For far too many young people, their first run-in with the law is only the beginning down a path toward more serious crime. The common-sense conclusion to solve this problem? Early intervention, which cuts off the path to juvenile crime—and lowers costs to taxpayers.

Nationwide, it costs an average of $88,000 per year to confine one juvenile offender. However, research-proven community-based alternatives deliver better public safety results at a fraction of the cost. Evidence-based community alternatives to detention can cut youth recidivism by more than half. And one such program, Functional Family Therapy, saves an estimated $27,000 per youth treated.

In September 2015, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids launched a national campaign that called on federal policymakers to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Originally passed in 1974, the legislation encourages adoption of interventions proven to reduce recidivism and save taxpayers money. Law enforcement leaders met with nine members of Congress in Washington, DC, and shared the report, Never is Better, But Once is Enough, which highlighted how evidence-based coaching programs for juvenile offenders and their families is a better alternative to placing youth in juvenile facilities. The momentum continued in the ensuing months, with an additional 10 meetings with lawmakers in seven states.

So when the federal law designed to help state and local leaders implement better ways to work with at-risk youth and juvenile offenders came up for reauthorization, the more than 5,000 law enforcement leaders of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, along with many other juvenile justice advocates, worked even harder to ensure House passage of the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act. This bipartisan legislation—which is not only a reauthorization, but an improvement of JJDPA—will prevent many juvenile offenders from becoming adult criminals, who then pass their criminal behaviors onto their children. In other words, it puts young Americans on a path to success, instead of jail.

Law enforcement leaders across the country and I have pushed for updated legislation so that fewer young people will be on the path to adult crime and prison. I am thankful that Congressman Curbelo led the charge and the House has now passed a bill for a smarter approach to juvenile crime prevention.

Donald J. Lee, Jr, Chief of Police, Key West (FL) Police Department

The Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act will help vulnerable youth get their lives back on track through reforms that will:

  • Set kids up for long-term success by helping them acquire skills necessary to grow into productive members of society and promoting opportunities to turn their lives around.
  • Provide state and local leaders flexibility to meet the needs of delinquent youth in their communities and improve public safety
  • Help at-risk youth avoid the juvenile justice system altogether by supporting prevention services
  • Prioritize what works by focusing on evidence-based strategies with proven track records
  • Improve accountability and oversight to deliver positive outcomes for kids and protect taxpayers

As police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, and violence survivors, the members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids know the importance of programs that tackle juvenile delinquency and youth recidivism head on. So we appreciate the bipartisan leadership shown by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA)—along with Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Reps. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA), Susan Davis (D-CA), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL)—who introduced the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act and secured its House passage.

Now, it’s onto the Senate!

The House has set the stage for a smarter approach to juvenile crime prevention in passing legislation that will ensure troubled youth get the tools they need to be productive citizens. I want to thank Congressman Scott for continuing to be a champion for youth and for moving this bill forward in a bipartisan fashion.

Terry L. Sult, Chief of Police, Hampton (VA) Police Division


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