December 12, 2018

Senate Passes Bipartisan Juvenile Justice Bill

Whitehouse-Grassley legislation encourages states to adopt new protections for youth

Washington, DC – The Senate this evening unanimously passed the bipartisan Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2018, authored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Charles Grassley (R-IA), to secure new protections for youth in the federal juvenile justice grant program.

Senator Grassley and I have been fighting for years to update our juvenile justice protections to do a better job getting kids back on track and out of the system for good,” said Whitehouse.  “This legislation will limit harsh practices like putting young people in solitary confinement or confining them with adultsIt helps kids stay up to date on their studies.  It also tackles substance abuse, mental health, and other factors that may be driving bad behavior.  These are wins for our kids and society as a whole.  Thank you to the Rhode Islanders and everyone who’s advocated tirelessly for juvenile justice reform.”

Kids in our juvenile justice system need safety, fairness and treatment that encourages respect for the law.  That’s why this bill deserved to be passed.  There was one final hold on the Democratic side that finally relented, allowing this bill to pass the Senate unanimously.  Thanks to Congressman Bobby Scott for his swift help to make that happen,” Grassley said. “This will be the first update to the law in over a decade.  Our bill includes important new accountability measures that protect taxpayer dollars and prevent states from being rewarded when failing to provide the minimum standard of protections for minors.”

The legislation takes steps to reduce the unnecessary incarceration of youth, improves safeguards for minors who encounter the justice system, and strengthens services that encourage a smooth transition back into society.  This bill is a bicameral compromise that blends the previous Senate and House versions. 

The original Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act was enacted in 1974 to ensure the safety of at-risk youth who enter the juvenile justice system, and assist states with delinquency prevention programs and activities.  The program has not been updated since 2002 and is long overdue to be reauthorized.

The 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.

This bill is expected to be taken up in the House of Representatives on suspension and quickly sent to the President for signature to become law.



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