October 11, 2022

Whitehouse to Lead Bicameral Resolution Declaring October 2022 National Youth Justice Action Month

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is set to introduce a bicameral, bipartisan resolution designating October 2022 as National Youth Justice Action Month.  The Senate resolution raises awareness about the collateral consequences youth face when they are treated as adults in the criminal justice system, and encourages the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to fully implement Whitehouse’s Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren will cosponsor the resolution in the Senate.  Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), David Trone (D-MD), and Victoria Spartz (R-IN) introduced companion legislation in the House.

“Kids who end up in the legal system deserve a fair chance to thrive as productive members of society.  But this system too often fails our nation’s kids – particularly young people of color and youngsters with disabilities or mental health issues,” said Whitehouse, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former Rhode Island Attorney General and U.S. Attorney.  “This October, we must commit to improving our juvenile justice system while also strengthening community-based efforts to ensure that young people receive age-appropriate support to stay out of the criminal justice system and get their lives on track.”

“Every year, 53,000 young people are tried and sentenced in the United States,” said Congressman Cárdenas.  “The fact is our children belong in schools, not prisons.  Yet, for too long, we have relied on an outdated juvenile justice model that prioritizes wasteful incarceration over efficient, effective rehabilitation.  Our resolution aims to shine light on the systemic problems in our juvenile justice system that keeps young Americans in a perpetual cycle of incarceration.”

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden proclaimed October 2022 to be National Youth Justice Action Month.

“Youth Justice Action Month is an important opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come, and to take action to continue to improve the way we address the needs of young people in our communities.  We are grateful that Congress and the White House have recognized the importance of keeping young people in their communities and providing them with the services and supports they need to lead successful lives,” said Naomi Evans, Executive Director at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

“Youth Justice Action Month is a time when we as a nation have the opportunity to listen and learn from youth who are caught in the legal system.  We are pleased that Congress and the White House are taking this month to elevate the needs of young people and ensure we are investing in supports for kids and communities,” said Alyson Clements, Interim Co-Executive Director at the National Juvenile Justice Network.

“Nobody’s life should be defined by what happened on their worst day.  This is particularly true for young people who are still developing physically and mentally.  We must support the strengths in every young person and listen when young people and families tell us what they need.  We appreciate that Congress and the White House are uplifting these truths by recognizing Youth Justice Action Month and reinforcing the community-driven solutions that help youth to thrive,” said Kari Sisson, Executive Director at the Association of Children’s Residential & Community Services.

In 2018, Whitehouse and Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) championed the long-overdue Senate reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.  The legislation took steps to reduce the unnecessary incarceration of youth, improve safeguards for minors who encounter the justice system, and strengthen services that encourage a smooth transition back into society.  Before passage of Whitehouse and Grassley’s bill, the program had not been updated for nearly a decade and a half.

Whitehouse also partnered with Warren in May to introduce the Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System Act.  The bill aims to expand access to funding for jurisdictions seeking to address racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system and boost local services, planning, and data sharing to promote more equitable treatment of youth.

Rhode Island has made significant progress improving outcomes for youth affected by the criminal justice system.  To support that effort, Whitehouse helped deliver federal funding last year for a public-private partnership between MENTOR Rhode Island, Rhode Island’s leading youth mentor agency, and Rhode Island Family Court to support the launch of a new mentorship program aimed at keeping young people out of the criminal justice system and equipping them with the skills to become productive adults.

The resolution is endorsed by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, National Juvenile Justice Network, Alianza for Youth Justice, American Youth Policy Forum, Association of Children’s Residential & Community Services, Boys Town, Center for Children’s Law and Policy, Human Rights for Kids, Impact Justice, MENTOR, National Network for Youth, Raikes Foundation, Rights4Girls, Strategies for Youth, The Gault Center, The Sentencing Project, Youth Villages, 24 and None, Arts for Healing and Justice Network, Citizens for Juvenile Justice, Connecticut Justice Alliance, Nevada Division of Child and Family Services, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, Iowa’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Council, Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, Ohio Juvenile Justice Coalition, Hawaii Juvenile Justice State Advisory Council, Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Kentucky Youth Advocates, Legal Rights Center, Michigan Center for Youth Justice, Michigan Children’s Law Center, Partnership Council for Juvenile Justice, Sycamores, Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, The Choice Program, The Dannon Project, The Kentucky Administrative Office of The Courts, and Utah Juvenile Defender Attorneys.

A PDF copy of the resolution is available here.

Meaghan McCabe, (401) 453-5294

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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921