|Juvenile Justice Reforms|
The juvenile justice system in the United States is in urgent need of reform. Riddled with racial and ethnic disparities, a lack of mental health and drug treatment services, harsh and abusive treatment in detention facilities, and disproportionate sanctions for minor and nonviolent adolescent misbehavior, current juvenile justice practices too often ignore children's age and amenability to rehabilitation, increase crime, endanger young people, damage their future prospects, waste billions of taxpayer dollars, and violate our deepest held principles about equal justice under the law.
Nationwide each year, police make 2.2 million juvenile arrests; 1.7 million cases are referred to juvenile courts; an estimated 400,000 youth cycle through juvenile detention centers; and nearly 100,000 youth are confined in juvenile jails, prisons, boot camps, and other residential facilities.1 On any given night, almost 10,000 of these children are held in adult jails and prisons, where they are particularly vulnerable to victimization and abuse. The United States is the only nation in the world where juveniles are serving sentences of life without the possibility of parole.
On a brighter note, scientific research over the past 20 years has vastly increased our understanding of what works, and how to best approach juvenile delinquency and system reform. Promising reforms are expanding in many jurisdictions, and we have an increasingly clear route for moving juvenile justice away from counterproductive, dangerous, and wasteful practices toward a more effective and just approach to addressing adolescent crime. This new administration has the opportunity, and the obligation, to establish a meaningful system of justice for all of our youth, and should begin by focusing on the following top two priorities:
1. Prioritization of Prevention and Intervention As Effective Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention and Crime Reduction Policy
A. Restore support for and sharpen the focus of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).
B. Strengthen and reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA or "the Act").
C. Increase support for prevention, education, gang intervention, mentoring, job training, health, mental health, and substance abuse community and school-based programming for youth.
2. Protection of Youth in the Juvenile Justice System and Promotion of Developmentally-Appropriate Policies
A. Promote age-appropriate treatment for youth in the justice system.
B. Screen youth for mental health and substance abuse disorders upon intake.
C. Reduce inappropriate penalties, and reform costly policies that subject more youth-particularly poor youth and youth of color-to federal prosecution and incarceration.
[i] Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2008 Kids Count Essay: A Road Map for Juvenile Justice Reform http://www.kidscount.org/datacenter/db_essay.jsp
|Last Updated on Monday, 10 November 2008 21:20|