House and Senate Work on Juvenile Justice Bills
Quist, Janet, Nation's Cities Weekly
Committees in both the House and Senate continued to work on legislation aimed at reforming the nation's juvenile justice system. The House Education and the Workforce subcommittee on Youth unanimously approved the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (HR 1818). This bill, which addresses juvenile crime prevention issues, is the companion bill to HR 3, approved by the House in May. HR 3, focused on juvenile punishment and accountability Full committee markup on HR 1818 is expected this week. The Senate Judiciary Committee began to mark up S. 10, its version of reforms of the juvenile justice system with hopes of reconvening this Wednesday.
HR 1818, sponsored by Rep. Frank Riggs (R-CA), chair of the Youth Subcommittee, makes significant modifications to the current Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act in a number of aspects important to cities and towns. First, it loosens up the "core requirements" that states must abide by in order to qualify for grant funds. Current law requires states, as a condition for receiving funds, to implement laws that: 1) Prohibit states from detaining status offenders in secure facilities. (Status offenders are youth who commit offenses that if they were adults would not be a crime such as truancy.) 2) Prohibit states from detaining juveniles arrested for non status offenses in adult lockups except that in rural areas. Such detention is permitted for 24 hours if no acceptable alternative placement is available, with certain exceptions. 3) Require states to separate juvenile offenders from incarcerated adults, and from part-time or full-time security adult prison staff or direct-care staff. This is called sight and sound separation. 4) Require states to "address efforts" to reduce the proportion of juveniles detained or confined in secure detention facilities, secure correctional facilities, jails, and lockups who are members of minority groups if such proportion exceeds the proportion such groups represent in the general population.
The Riggs' bill would retain the current prohibition on detaining juvenile offenders in secure facilities. Currently, rules allow such juveniles to be held up to 24 hours before and 24 hours after their court appearance. The bill would modify the "sight and sound" separation requirement to prohibit regular contact with adult prisoners and staff but would allow "incidental, supervised contact" which could include passing in a hallway It would build in flexibility with respect to the period of time a juvenile can be held in a facility with adults, prior to an initial court appearance and in rural areas allows juveniles to be held in an adult facility if the parents and court agree. Finally, it would modify current law regarding the overrepresentation of minorities in the juvenile justice system to address prevention efforts to reduce the disproportionate number of minorities that come in contact with the juvenile justice system. …