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SEP
23
2016

POLICY
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Update: House of Representatives passes juvenile justice bill

By Erik Peterson

Pictured at the committee meeting yesterday, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) introduced the the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act along with Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). Image via @edworkorce on Instagram.

On evening of September 22, the full House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act (H.R. 5963) by a final vote of 382 to 29. The bill now goes to the Senate, which has yet to pass its version of the juvenile justice reauthorization legislation. For more on the House bill and implications for afterschool programs, see the blog from Sept. 15 below. 

Juvenile justice bill introduced in House, passes Education Committee

On Friday, September 9, members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee introduced the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act (H.R. 5963). Sponsored by Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), the legislation reauthorizes and reforms the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) to help state and local leaders better serve young people and juvenile offenders. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce unanimously approved the legislation by voice vote yesterday.

Since 1974, the JJDPA has coordinated federal resources aimed at improving state juvenile justice systems with a focus on education and rehabilitation. While many of these state juvenile justice programs have been able to help children develop the life skills they need to hold themselves accountable and achieve success, not all programs have seen the same results. As the law expired in 2008, this bipartisan legislation includes reforms to provide states and local leaders flexibility to deliver services that meet the specific needs of delinquent youth in their communities; promote opportunities for juvenile offenders to acquire skills necessary to grow into productive members of society; help at-risk youth avoid the juvenile justice system by supporting prevention services; prioritize evidence-based strategies with proven track records and long-term solutions for addressing juvenile delinquency; and improve accountability and oversight at all levels of the juvenile justice system.

Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) praised the bipartisan bill in a statement, saying the “bipartisan bill includes positive reforms that will help state and community leaders keep at-risk youth out of the juvenile justice system and provide juvenile offenders the second chance they need to turn their lives around.”

The bill will strengthen prevention and rehabilitation support by:

  • Providing states and local leaders flexibility to deliver services that meet the specific needs of delinquent youth in their communities.
  • Promoting opportunities for juvenile offenders to acquire skills necessary to grow into productive members of society.
  • Helping at-risk youth avoid the juvenile justice system by supporting prevention services.  
  • Prioritizing evidence-based strategies with proven track records and long-term solutions for addressing juvenile delinquency.
  • Improving accountability and oversight at all levels of the juvenile justice system.

With regard to support for afterschool and mentoring programs, the bill restructures an existing local delinquency-prevention grant program to better assess and respond to unmet community needs. Under the legislation, eligible states will award five-year grants to help local leaders meet those specific needs with a focus on community engagement and coordination among existing efforts and programs. Mentoring and afterschool are included as allowable uses for the prevention funding as evidence-based programs to support young people.

The Senate’s bipartisan version of the juvenile justice legislation, S. 1169, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2015, though attempts to pass the bill on the Senate floor have not yet been successful despite broad bipartisan support.