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Curbelo Statement: Markup of H.R. 5963, the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act

There is nothing I want more as a parent than for my daughters to have opportunity—the opportunity to receive a quality education that will prepare them for the future; the opportunity to explore and develop their interests and skills and then to pursue them; and the opportunity to live in, and give back to, safe and productive communities.

Many children across the country have those opportunities. Unfortunately, far too many don’t. Whether they are born into circumstances they can’t control or make misguided decisions that steer them off course, these kids often don’t know that they have options—opportunities—to build successful, fulfilling lives. Instead, they believe their only path forward is one of crime or delinquency—a path that often puts them or others in harm’s way and sets them up for failure rather than success.

That’s why Ranking Member Scott and I introduced the legislation before us today. This legislation will help those children understand that success is within their reach and there is a better way to achieve it. It includes a number of positive reforms, but they’re all meant to achieve three main goals.

First, H.R. 5963 sets kids up for long-term success. The legislation gives state and local leaders the flexibility to better meet the specific needs of children in their communities—especially those who are most vulnerable. It also includes reforms to ensure state juvenile justice programs reflect the views and expertise of stakeholders, along with measures to help juvenile offenders smoothly transition out of the system through education, family engagement, and community-based services. The bill also supports prevention services to help at-risk youth avoid the system all together.

These reforms will help more children acquire the skills and the knowledge to hold themselves accountable for their actions, grow into productive members of society, and seize opportunities to work toward a brighter future.

Second, the bill focuses on what works. It prioritizes evidence-based strategies with proven track records to reduce juvenile delinquency. It also includes a number of measures to provide information and resources that will give policymakers, state and local leaders, and service providers a better understanding of how to best serve juveniles and implement the law.

Finally, the legislation improves oversight and accountability. The bill updates current reporting requirements to provide a better—more transparent—picture of the operations and the success of juvenile justice efforts across the country, as well as those at the federal level. Other measures will ensure that resources meant to support at-risk youth and juvenile offenders are actually being used for those purposes, helping to limit waste and fraud in the system.

All of these reforms will not only improve public safety and protect taxpayers, but just as importantly, they will help deliver positive outcomes for some of our nation’s most vulnerable kids. I’d like to thank Ranking Member Scott and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their help in advancing these important bipartisan reforms.