Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), James Inhofe (R-OK), Gary Peters (D-MI) and David Vitter (R-LA) announced that they have introduced criminal justice reform legislation that seeks to blunt the school to prison pipeline. The bipartisan Youth PROMISE Act allows local governments to use more of their existing federal funding to invest in youth violence prevention programs, like mentoring. The plan, which is complimented by companion legislation in the House of Representatives, aims to help empower local communities to implement evidence-based programs that aid at risk youth before they encounter the criminal justice system.
“Our criminal justice system, and in particular our juvenile justice system, is badly broken,” Senator Casey said. “Our schools shouldn’t be just a waystation before jail. Allowing local communities to invest in evidence based approaches that target at risk youth before they enter the criminal justice system will lead to higher graduation rates, better jobs and ultimately a stronger economy.”
"The Youth PROMISE Act is a bipartisan, community-based approach to prevent America’s young people from turning to a life of crime,” said Senator Inhofe. “By providing localized, evidence-base methods for mentoring and youth outreach programs, we can help keep at-risk youth out of prison and put them on a path towards a more promising future.”
"Too many of America's youth are directly involved in senseless violence, and we must take action to address this serious issue so our kids are able to have a good shot at a better life," said Senator Peters. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Youth PROMISE Act, which takes a comprehensive, community-based approach towards tackling and preventing violence in our schools and neighborhoods.”
“As a father of four, I know how important it is to give our kids every opportunity to succeed,” Senator Vitter said. “This bill uses our criminal justice dollars in proven programs that divert our country’s most vulnerable kids from a life of crime and violence and helps create a safe environment to learn and make our communities stronger.”
On any given day in the United States, approximately 60,000 young people are incarcerated, costing taxpayers about $5 billion each year. The Youth PROMISE Act (Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education) would empower local communities to fund, implement and evaluate evidence-based youth violence prevention and intervention strategies. These prevention practices, such as mentoring and after-school programs, reduce crime more effectively and at a lower cost than incarceration. In fact, a recent study in Pennsylvania found that it saved $5 for every $1 invested in high-quality prevention and intervention programs. Through a comprehensive and coordinated approach to youth violence prevention, the Youth PROMISE Act:
- Makes not more than 20% of the amount available for Youth Mentoring Programs in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency to carry out Youth PROMISE.
- Amends the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 to establish a PROMISE Advisory Panel to assist the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in:
- Assessing and developing standards and evidence-based practices to prevent juvenile delinquency and criminal street gang activity.
- Collecting data in designated geographic areas to assess the needs and existing resources for juvenile delinquency and criminal street gang activity.
- Authorizes the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to award grants to local governments and Indian tribes to:
- Plan and assess evidence-based and promising practices for juvenile delinquency prevention and intervention, especially for at-risk youth.
- Implement PROMISE plans, developed by local PROMISE Coordinating Councils (PCCs), for coordinating and supporting the delivery of juvenile delinquency prevention and intervention programs in local communities.
- PROMISE Coordinating Councils will include community and faith-based groups, schools, parents, youth, courts, law enforcement, health and social service providers, non-profits and other stakeholders.
- Establishes a National Research Center for Proven Juvenile Justice Practices to provide PCCs and the public with research and other information about evidence-based practices related to juvenile delinquency and criminal street gang prevention or intervention.
- Directs the Administrator to award grants to institutions of higher education to serve as regional research partners with PCCs that are located in the same geographic region as the educational institution.
The Youth PROMISE Act is supported by over 300 organizations, including the Alliance for Children and Families, the American Correctional Association, the AFT, the Children’s Defense Fund, the ACLU, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, the NEA, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.