Holder Discusses Juvenile Justice with County Officials

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Attorney General Eric Holder discussed juvenile justice at a conference of the National Association of Counties yesterday, telling the audience that improving juvenile justice systems now “makes good economic sense.”

During a down economic era, Holder said, it’s both morally and financially sensible to keep young people “out of over-stressed and under-funded corrections facilities and saving precious law enforcement resources.”

He focused on two projects he personally developed at the Justice Department: the Defending Childhood Initiative and the Access to Justice Initiative. The former supports efforts to assist youth who have been traumatized by witnessing or experiencing violence; the latter seeks to help jurisdictions increase the level of legal representation for poor people.

“Why is it that abused and neglected children are 11 times more likely than their non-abused and non-neglected peers to be arrested for criminal behavior?” Holder asked the audience. “And why is it that so many of those enter our juvenile justice system either can’t afford, or do not know to ask for, access to legal guidance.”

Holder did not address President Barack Obama’s 2012 plan to recalibrate funding at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Obama proposes to turn the funds connected to compliance with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act into an incentive grant system that states could compete for.

Click here to read Holder’s entire address to the National Association of Counties.