BigNews.Biz - Apr 07,2017 - Grassley, Whitehouse Introduce Bill Protecting Vulnerable Youth & Expanding Oversight of Juvenile Justice Grant Programs
WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced legislation to support at-risk youth and those who enter the juvenile justice system. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2017 takes steps to reduce unnecessary incarceration of youth, improves safeguards for minors who encounter the justice system, and strengthens services that encourage a smooth transition back into society. The legislation also includes new transparency and accountability measures to ensure that youth are fairly and effectively served by juvenile justice grant programs.
“Juvenile justice programs help local communities protect youth and prevent them from entering a life of crime, but the programs haven’t been revisited in more than a decade. We’ve also seen many cases where states receive grants even though they fail to provide the level of service that the law requires. This is no way to serve at-risk youth. Our bill provides a long-overdue policy update that improves opportunities for our nation’s most vulnerable children and strengthens safeguards for those who do encounter the juvenile justice system. It also takes steps to tackle fraud and waste so states aren’t rewarded for missing the mark and children are able to benefit from the program’s full potential,” Grassley said.
“We can do a lot more to ensure that young people stay on track and succeed after a run-in with our juvenile justice system. This legislation will help kids keep up their education while detained, stop locking them up for things that wouldn’t land an adult in prison, make sure they’re confined safely, and get them important services they may need, like substance abuse and mental health counseling. I am proud to join Chairman Grassley to reintroduce this commonsense bill,” Whitehouse said.
The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act was created in 1974 to ensure the safety of at-risk youth who enter the criminal justice system, and assist states with their juvenile justice programs and activities. The program has not been updated since 2002 and is long overdue to be reauthorized.
The Grassley-Whitehouse bill improves the existing law by:
Improving treatment for juvenile offenders with mental illness and substance abuse issues;
Encouraging states to make efforts to identify, report and reduce racial and ethnic disparities for youth who enter the juvenile justice system;
Supporting alternatives to incarceration, such as problem-solving courts; and
Strengthening oversight of the federal grant program and holding states accountable for failing to meet core grant requirements to protect the safety of minors in the justice system.
A full list of the bill’s key provisions are available
Bill text is available.
Grassley and Whitehouse introduced similar legislation in 2015 after a number of whistleblowers alleged that many states fall short of core requirements to receive the taxpayer-funded grants, and the Justice Department office responsible for overseeing the program has admitted it has had an unlawful policy in place since 1997