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House Passes Bill to Enhance Opportunity for Vulnerable Youth, Improve Juvenile Justice

Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1809, the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2017 by voice vote. Introduced by Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), the bipartisan legislation reauthorizes and reforms the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) to help state and local leaders better serve juvenile offenders and at-risk youth.

“The Juvenile Justice Reform Act gives kids across the U.S. a second chance. The reforms we make in the JJRA are focused on preventing crime, supporting rehabilitation, and getting kids to graduation and a good job," Rep. Lewis said. "We need these reforms to keep kids from being in jail unnecessarily- and to get to at-risk youth before they can take a wrong turn. I’m proud that my colleagues unanimously supported this bipartisan bill, which will improve accountability for taxpayers. I’ll keep working to get this bill signed into law.”

“Today’s bipartisan work in the House brings us one step closer to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline,” said Ranking Member Scott. “H.R. 1809, the Juvenile Justice Reform Act, includes necessary improvements to federal juvenile crime policy that are firmly grounded in evidence. The bill strengthens the basic protections for children in the juvenile systems in all states. It also ensures public dollars are invested in a continuum of evidence-based initiatives, and alternatives to incarceration and secure detention. We know this strategy produces positive results for at-risk youth that lead to reduced crime and long-term savings. This policy is based on the Youth PROMISE Act, legislation I first introduced in 2007, and I’m glad that we are able to pass the core parts of the Youth PROMISE Act today.”

“The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2017 will help provide vulnerable youth an opportunity to make a change for the better," said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. "This bipartisan proposal renews our commitment as a country to help disadvantaged children turn their lives around and achieve success. Representative Lewis and Ranking Member Scott are to be commended for their leadership, and I urge our Senate colleagues to advance this important legislation without delay."

BACKGROUND: Since 1974, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act has coordinated federal resources aimed at improving state juvenile justice systems with a focus on education and rehabilitation. While many of these state juvenile justice programs have helped children develop the life skills they need to hold themselves accountable and achieve success, not all programs have seen the same results.

To improve education and rehabilitation of at-risk youth and juvenile offenders, Rep. Lewis and Ranking Member Scott introduced the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2017. The bipartisan legislation includes reforms to:

  • Provide states and local leaders greater flexibility to deliver services that meet the specific needs of delinquent youth in their communities.
        
  • Promote opportunities for juvenile offenders to acquire skills necessary to grow into productive members of society.
       
  • Help at-risk youth avoid the juvenile justice system by improving support for prevention services.
        
  • Prioritize evidence-based strategies and long-term solutions for addressing juvenile delinquency.
        
  • Improve accountability and oversight at all levels of the juvenile justice system.

To read a fact sheet on the bill, click here.
 
To read a section-by-section summary of the bill, click here.
 
To read the bill, click here.

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