Casey Measures To Reform Juvenile Justice System Headed To President’s Desk To Become Law

Congress Passes Juvenile Justice Reform Act To Enhance Opportunity and Improve Outcomes for At-Risk Youth

Casey Measures To Reform Juvenile Justice System Headed To President’s Desk To Become Law

Washington, D.C. - Today, Congress passed the Juvenile Justice Reform Act, a major package reauthorizing many of our Nation’s federal juvenile justice programs. The bill included two key provisions based on legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).

The legislation authorizes Youth Promise Grants, a core piece of the Youth Promise Act introduced by Senator Casey. Youth Promise Grants will help local communities implement evidence-based prevention and intervention programs—such as tutoring, youth mentoring and physical and mental health programs—specifically designed to reduce juvenile delinquency and contact with the juvenile justice system. 

The bill also requires the Department of Justice to develop, disseminate and provide technical assistance for implementing best practices for the treatment of status offenders and for limiting the use of valid court orders to place them in secure detention. Every year, thousands of kids are incarcerated for “status offenses”—acts that would not be considered crimes if they were committed by an adult, like truancy, breaking curfew or running away from home. While current law generally does not allow for the incarceration of status offenders, a loophole allows these youth to be placed in a detention facility if they have violated a “valid court order.” Senator Casey has introduced the Prohibiting Detention of Youth Status Offenders Act, bipartisan legislation to close the valid court order loophole, three times since 2014. The best practices requirements passed by the Senate today are a meaningful step towards closing this loophole entirely.

“In passing this authorization, Congress has taken a strong step forward for our Nation’s at-risk youth,” said Senator Casey. “By working to improve guidelines and resources for proven delinquency prevention programs, and by working to limit incarceration of youth status offenders, we can change the trajectories of young lives, create safer communities and generate enormous savings for our economy in the areas of safety, child welfare and education. I urge the President to swiftly sign this legislation.”

The Juvenile Justice Reform Act reauthorizes the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) of 1974, which was last reauthorized by Congress in 2002. The bill is centered on three core principles: education, safety and prevention. It works to ensure the continuity of incarcerated youths’ education, provide better guidance on racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile incarceration and promotes the accountability of federal resources devoted to juvenile justice initiatives.

More on Casey’s Youth Promise Act:

The Juvenile Justice Reform Act authorizes Youth Promise Grants to enable local communities to address unmet needs of at-risk or delinquent youth through local programming for juveniles who have had contact, or are likely to have contact, with the juvenile justice system. These federal grants will be awarded to local grantees by the States, ensuring that States and localities have flexible resources to implement programs that work for their communities. By focusing on evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies, Youth Promise Grants will help break the cycle of contact with the justice system and help put at-risk youth on the path to success.

More on Casey’s Prohibiting Detention of Youth Status Offenders Act:

The Juvenile Justice Reform Act requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to develop best practices, based on research and State practices, regarding the treatment of status offenders and the limited usage of valid court orders to place them in secure detention. It requires DOJ to disseminate these best practices to States and provide technical assistance for implementing them. The development and implementation of best practices is a key step towards closing the valid court order loophole entirely, as would be required by the Prohibiting Detention of Youth Status Offenders Act.

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