December 17, 2018

Whitehouse, Cicilline Mark Passage of Landmark Juvenile Justice Legislation

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

Pawtucket, RI – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) today joined children’s advocates and young adults who interacted with the juvenile justice system to mark the passage of the landmark Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2018.

The reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act was sponsored in the Senate by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) to secure new protections for youth in the federal juvenile justice grant program.  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.

“I’ve been working with Senator Grassley for years to overhaul our juvenile justice laws so that kids who have made mistakes can have a better shot at starting over and staying out of the system for good,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  “I’m grateful to the Rhode Islanders who advised on this effort, and everyone from both sides of the aisle who advocated tirelessly to get this legislation passed.”

“No kid should have their life ruined because they come into contact with the justice system at an early age,” said Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “I’m proud that my friend, Senator Whitehouse, has been leading the fight to fix this broken system and give more kids the opportunity to escape the deadly cycle of recidivism and reincarceration.”

Today’s event took place at Tides Family Services, a non-profit social services agency supporting children at risk, where Whitehouse held a field hearing on juvenile justice at the start of the bipartisan effort to update the law in 2014.

“Kids, no matter their background or where they live, deserve the chance to be kids,” said Beth Bixby, CEO of Tides Family Services.  “We are proud to have Senator Whitehouse working for the nation’s youth to improve juvenile justice resources.  For 35 years, Tides Family Services has been providing the type of programming highlighted in this bill to divert youth from future involvement in the juvenile justice system.  Tides’ grassroots approach with youth and their families has changed lives because they were given the opportunity to succeed.  This legislation will allow Tides and other similar programs to continue to work with youth to pave better pathways for themselves.”

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act unanimously passed both the Senate and House last week.  The legislation awaits the President’s signature, which will cap Whitehouse’s years-long bipartisan effort to update the law.

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.

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.


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