Issue: Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act
As Congress considers reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), the focus of the state court community will be to protect and expand effective programs that serve delinquent youth and oppose efforts to take away their jurisdiction.
No formal position
The JJDPA is the main law governing federal efforts to support effective juvenile justice and delinquency prevention activities. Importantly, states and their courts that receive funding under JJDPA must agree to follow a set of federal guidelines in dealing with delinquent youth.
In recent years, Congress has tended to focus on more punitive efforts to deal with offending youth such as approving harsher penalties and reducing protections. While it may be a little early to gauge the new Congress, indications are that they will give more focus to outcome-based programs for troubled youth, a change in strategy. These strategies include early intervention, supporting prevention programs, rehabilitative strategies, and alternatives to incarceration.
Hearings were held on reauthorization on JJDPA on 7/12/07 and on 9/18/07 by the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Crime Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee. These were the first in a series of hearings that have examined the role that JJDPA plays in addressing the needs of delinquent youth. Although the House has held hearings, no bill has been introduced in that body.
Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) introduced JJDPA reauthorization legislation on 6/18/08 (S 3155). S 3155, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2008, includes recognition of the role court-appointed special advocates (CASAs) play to protect juveniles. There is also a new emphasis on providing mental health services for juveniles that need it. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved S 3155 on 7/31/08. JJDPA reauthorization legislation is expected to be introduced in the 111th Congress.