House Hears Testimony On Juvenile Justice Legislation

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

House Hears Testimony On Juvenile Justice Legislation

WASHINGTON -
The
House Education and Labor Committee met today to hear testimony on
reforming the juvenile justice system. Witnesses included a juvenile
court judge, a juvenile corrections officer and a woman whose child
committed suicide while being held in an adult penitentiary.
 
Currently,
there is an important bill awaiting a floor vote in the Senate that
would reauthorize standards set by the original Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (JJDPA) and would continue funding
to protect the rights of juveniles in the criminal justice system. The
bill, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization
Act, was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in December. The
House has yet to introduce any legislation addressing the JJDPA.
 
“The
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act has provided states and
localities with standards and funding for improving juvenile justice
for over 35 years,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the American
Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office. “It is a crucial
law that needs the full support of Congress. The House should follow
the Senate’s lead and move quickly on legislation to reauthorize the
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. We must ensure that we
do a better job of protecting and reforming America’s at-risk youth.”
 
Throughout
the country, children who are prosecuted through juvenile courts for
status offenses – offenses that would not be criminal but for the age
of the offender – remain subject to boilerplate conditions of release
and, unfortunately, the circumstances that lead a particular child to
commit his or her first status offense often go unaddressed.
Predictably, the child often commits the same offense again, landing in
secure detention as a result. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention Reauthorization Act would phase out those boilerplate
conditions, ensuring that many juveniles could avoid ending up in the
“school to prison pipeline.”
 
The
current juvenile justice system also routinely and disproportionately
affects girls, who represent a small number of delinquent children in
custody but almost half of status offenders in custody.
 
“Our
current juvenile justice system is not serving our youth well, and this
is especially true for many girls for whom incarceration is not only
the inappropriate answer but is also a cruel one for those attempting
to escape unstable or abusive home environments when they run away,”
said Jennifer Bellamy, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “It is crucial that we
address the root of these issues rather than continuing the punitive
cycle that so many of America’s youth are currently enduring. We
encourage the House to introduce legislation promptly to address these
issues.”
 
To read the ACLU’s letter of support for the JJDPA, go to:
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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