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Tell the President: Protect Children in the Justice System!

The President’s FY12 budget would significantly restructure federal juvenile justice funding to the states and territories and undermines the historic purpose and intent of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevent Act of 1974. 

The proposal abandons the three decade long federal support for the minimum federal protections for children in the juvenile justice system and runs counter to the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) reauthorization legislation (S. 678, S. 3155) introduced and passed on a bipartisan basis by the U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee in the 110th and 111th Congresses and endorsed by the Administration.

For example, the “Jail Removal” minimum federal protection requires that states not place children in adult jails or lockups.   

In federal law since 1980, the “Jail Removal” minimum federal protection is based on the research that shows children placed in adult jails with adults are at risk of physical and sexual assault, separating children from adults in adult jails helps reduce some of the physical or emotional harm to children, but children are then often placed in isolation which can also produce harmful consequences. And, children have the highest suicide rates of all inmates in jails. Youth are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility, and 20 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than youth in the general population.

Organizations such as the American Jail Association, the American Correctional Association, the National Association of Counties, the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators and the Coalition for Juvenile Justice have national policy positions supporting the removal of children from adult jails and lockups.

Abandoning the guaranteed connection between compliance and federal support for this type of protection increases the probability of shifting the entire cost of complying with the federal minimum protections to the states.  The result would be a substantial increase in the numbers of children subject to placement in adult jails and lockups.

In order to ensure that the President’s FY12 budget continues to support states and ensure minimum protections for children in the justice system, please join us in calling on the President and the Obama Administration to:

(1) Restructure the “Race to the Top-style Juvenile Justice Improvements Grant” to be consistent with current/recent JJDPA reauthorization proposals by allocating 90-95% ($108 – 114 million) of the funds of the Juvenile Justice Improvements Grant on a formula basis to all of the states in partial or total compliance with the minimum federal protections.

(2)   Restructure the “Race to the Top-style Juvenile Justice Improvements Grant” by allocating the remaining 5-10% ($6-12 million) of the funds on a competitive basis for a select number of states to improve outcomes for vulnerable children.

(3)   Restore the $10 million cut in these programs.

(4)   Support provisions included in the JJDPA reauthorization bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee last Congress to substantially strengthen the minimum federal protections for children.

(5)   Initiate administrative actions to accelerate the implementation of efforts to strengthen the minimum federal protections for children.

Please send a letter to President Obama to urge him to protect children in the justice system!


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