House committee holds hearing on juvenile justice reformby Jillian Luchner
On February 15th, the House of Representatives held a subcommittee hearing on “Providing Vulnerable Youth the Hope of a Brighter Future Through Juvenile Justice Reform.” Chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), the hearing included testimony from four witnesses, Meg Williams from the Colorado Department of Public Safety, Chief Patrick J. Flannelly from the Lafayette Police Department in Indiana, the Honorable Denise Navaree Cubbon, Administrative Judge in Lucas County, Ohio, and Matt Reed, executive director of the YMCA in Louisville Kentucky. Witnesses discussed ways to reform the country’s juvenile justice system to promote safe communities and set at-risk youth on the pathway to success.
The press release on the event tells the following story of a youth’s changed trajectory as a result of preventative intervention:
Mr. Reed’s testimony discussed his work with at-risk youth for more than 20 years. He said effective and evidence-based solutions play an important role in keeping kids out of the juvenile justice system. Reed shared the story of 12-year-old Cassidy who grew up in a troubled home where drug dealing and usage often occurred. In the summer of 2012, as a freshman in high school, Cassidy was arrested after her home was raided by law enforcement. “[Cassidy’s] mom had refused to give up any of the dealers, choosing instead to pin it on Cassidy,” Reed said. “She watched her daughter taken off in handcuffs.”
The House hearing is seen as a step forward toward the 115th Congress passing reauthorized and updated Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) legislation. A JJDPA bill in the 114th Congress, which included updates supporting the preventative and restorative roles afterschool and community based programming like YMCA’s can play in youth development, passed the House, but did not pass the Senate. The Senate will be holding its own committee hearing on the JJDPA legislation, “Improving Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System” on Tuesday February 28th.