The Senate Judiciary Committee has the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) on the schedule to get picked up tomorrow or next week. Our guess is next week, because the committee meeting scheduled for tomorrow has a ton of items on the agenda.
Two pieces of news leading up to the markup. First, the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) is circulating a letter signed by six former OJJDP administrators that urges the reauthorization of JJDPA. It is the first time in history that a group of former administrators have voiced support for reauthorization. And really, it’s only the second time that a group of former administrators have done anything together; the first was a panel hosted by Youth Today last month.
The signors are: Shay Bilchik, John Rector, Verne Speirs, Ira Schwartz, Robert Sweet and John Wilson. Wilson was never a senate-confirmed administrator; he was acting administrator 1993 to 1994 and from 1999 to 2001
Two living former administrators do not have their name affixed to the letter: Reagan-era administrator Al Regnery and George W. Bush’s administrator, J. Robert Flores.
CFYJ Executive Director Liz Ryan tells JJ Today that she thinks Regnery would have signed it. She admittedly got the letter to him late in the game, and the campaign wanted to get the letter into the hands of Senate and House leaders this week.
She did not ask Flores to sign. “I did not want Flores’ name,” Ryan said. “He damaged the credibility of OJJDP. It would have lessened the impact of the letter.”
Second piece of news: Sen. Jeff Sessions may introduce this amendment to the bill, which would allow federal prosecutors to transfer more juveniles into adult court without having to get judicial approval.
The amendment is pretty limited in scope. It allows prosecutors to transfer freely in cases where juveniles have committed very serious offenses against certain federal law enforcement officers or U.S. officials and judges.
“It is time for the rest of the country to … treat juvenile murderers the way we treat adult murderers; as dangerous predators that should be removed from society,” Sessions wrote in an explanation of the amendment.
Ryan and a number of other JJ advocates fear the precedent set when the feds give prosecutors more discretion on transferring juveniles to adult court. “It sends the wrong message” to states, Ryan said. “It says it’s okay to give prosecutors unfettered review authority.”
Ryan said she’s fairly confident the amendment will be defeated in committee, but CFYJ is pushing for people to sign this online letter in opposition to the amendment.