House Passes Juvenile Justice Bill

Article excerpt

Last week the House overwhelmingly approved HR 3, the Juvenile Crime Control Act of 1997.

This bill would establish a $1.5 billion block grant (over three years) to states for post-arrest juvenile justice purposes. To receive funds, however, states must comply with new federal mandates--called "incentives" in the legislation--designed to force them to "correct their failed juvenile justice systems." HR 3 would require states to try certain juveniles--some as young as 15--as adults, treat juveniles records in the same manner as adults, and establish programs of graduated sanctions.

In order to fund the new block grant proposed in HR 3, the NLC-supported Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG) could be eliminated. While specifically not written in HR 3, the possible termination of the LLEBG has been publicly discussed, and President Clinton zeroed out the program in the administration's 1998 Budget Proposal.

Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, who sponsored the LLEBG two years ago and who is also the sponsor of HR 3, made the following statement on the House floor during debate over HR 3 regarding the LLEBG. "I still support the funding for block grants passed in the Contract With America that are now being used by local governments for crime prevention and supportive law enforcement. I will be working with appropriators to find the funds necessary to support both the juvenile justice grants in this bill and the more general purpose public safety block grants that passed in the Congress last year as part of the appropriations process."

The new grants program in HR 3 would provide assistance to states and local governments to enact laws that 1) extend to prosecutors, rather than judges, the discretion to try as adults youth as young as 15 who are charged with violent offenses that would be felonies if committed by adults; 2) impose increasing sanctions on every delinquent or criminal act or violation of probation; 3) establish a system of records, which could be made available to schools, victims, and the FBI, for violent juvenile offenders similar to those kept for adult offenders; and 4) ensure that state law does not prevent a juvenile court judge from issuing a court order or imposing sanctions against a parent or custodian regarding their supervision of the youth.

Each State would receive $1.25 million and a percentage of the remainder based on the number of juveniles in the state. …