News Briefs: Archives 2011 & Earlier

Advocates Seek to Reform JJDP Act

Federal juvenile justice reauthorization should for the first time encourage states to address conditions in youth jails and residential facilities, in light of recent abuses in such places as Texas and Ohio, juvenile justice advocates said late last month. But they said Congress should not make the safety of such places a new “core” requirement.

That was among the many recommendations discussed at a Capitol Hill briefing arranged by Act 4 Juvenile Justice, a coalition of more than 280 organizations that is working to improve and reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).

The 34-year-old law aims to protect youth in the justice system by requiring states that accept federal funding to comply with “core” protections: sight and sound separation of youth from adults in lockup; youth removal from adult jails; deinstitutionalization of status offenders, such as runaways and truants; and reduction of minority contact at all points in the juvenile justice system.

Coalition members said they are trying to capitalize on lawmakers’ interest in updating the 1974 act; three hearings have been held so far. “We have a real shot” at getting a bill passed this year, said Tim Briceland-Betts, co-director of government affairs at the Child Welfare League of America, noting a “sense of urgency” in the field.

But recommending that lawmakers make “conditions of confinement” a new core requirement would be a mistake, said Liz Ryan, executive director of the Campaign for Youth Justice, in part because every state would be out of compliance. Instead, she said, advocates are trying to “elevate” the issue in the law by recommending a combination of better data and reporting practices, incentives and training money for reducing dangerous practices (such as the use of shackles and medication to subdue youth), and requirements in state plans to eliminate dangerous practices.

Ryan acknowledged the difficulties in awarding new grants to states to address conditions of confinement. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has threatened to put a hold on any new streams of money, which would stop a bill in its tracks, so any such program would have to be part of the JJDPA’s existing spending authority.

The coalition wants to double the funding for JJDPA over the next five years from its current base of about $384 million, Briceland-Betts said. He said there is “no question” that the practice of earmarking many of the juvenile justice funding accounts does “hamper” the progress of reform. Funds under Title V of the act, which deals with delinquency prevention, are often almost entirely consumed by lawmakers’ pet projects, but Briceland-Betts said there is “active consideration” on the Hill to reduce or eliminate earmarks.

A coalition survey of the juvenile justice field produced four key principles for reauthorization: keep children and youth out of the justice system; ensure equity and cultural competence; make sure that system responses are age- and developmentally appropriate; and strengthen the federal partnership with state and local governments.

The coalition hired Karen Marangi, a lobbyist from Patton Boggs LLP, to help JJDPA reauthorization become a reality. Marangi said she hopes a bill is introduced by May, noting that the legislative process can significantly slow down as election time nears.


Youth Today is the only independent, internationally distributed digital media publication that is read by thousands of professionals in the youth service field.

Youth Today adheres to high-quality journalistic standards, providing readers with professional news coverage dedicated to examining a wide spectrum of complex issues in the youth services industry from legislation to community-based youth work.


Our organization retains full authority over editorial content to protect the best journalistic and business interests of our organization. We maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and sources of all revenue.


We are committed to transparency in every aspect of funding our organization. Donors may be quoted, mentioned or featured in our stories. Our news judgments are made independently – not based on or influenced by donors. Accepting financial support does not mean we endorse donors or their products, services or opinions…(read more)

Recent Comments




Kennesaw State University Mountain Logo & Ceneter for Sustainable Journalism Logo
LOGO Institute for Nonprofit News 3 turquoise boxes stacked in "J" shape

Copyright © 2018 Youth Today and MVP Themes --- Published by Center for Sustainable Journalism,
Kennesaw State University, 1200 Chastain Blvd. Suite 310, Kennesaw GA 30144

To Top