Petition Closed
Petitioning U.S. Senate

Tell the Senate: Invest in Juvenile Justice

More than $7 million in additional cuts to juvenile justice funding will happen in January 2013 under the sequestration terms of the debt ceiling agreement passed last summer, if Congress can’t approve a deficit reduction plan by the end of the year.

Juvenile justice programs strengthen the nation's juvenile justice system, and support prevention and early intervention programs that make a critical difference for young people and their communities, and contribute to the prevention and reduction of youth crime and violence.

These programs enable states and communities to improve the juvenile justice system so that it provides critical treatment and rehabilitative services, in safe conditions, that are tailored to the needs of juveniles and their families; protects public safety; and, holds youthful offenders accountable. This reduction will gut proven state and community juvenile justice intervention programs that localities have used to keep youth and families safe, and keep juvenile crime rates down.

When Congress returns for a lame duck session after the election, it is urgent that our Senators and Representatives work to avoid additional cuts to juvenile justice funding that would threaten public safety, and weaken state’s ability to protect children from the dangers of adult jails, to improve safety for youth in custody, and to increase fairness in the justice system.

Contact Congress to urge them to preserve effective federal investments in programs that prevent juvenile crime and delinquency, and protect youth in the juvenile justice system.

Letter to
U.S. Senate
At a time in which economic insecurity threatens the wellbeing and optimism of local communities, it is critical for the federal government to support state efforts to meet the needs of its citizens. In particular, we are concerned about additional federal spending cuts that will harm critical juvenile justice programs and ask that in your work to come to agreement on a comprehensive approach to deficit reduction, that you ensure adequate funding for effective and proven delinquency prevention and community safety programs.

In its budget plan last February, the Administration proposed $175 million for three critical juvenile justice programs: $80 million for Title II of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA); $65 million with no earmarks for Title V of the JJDPA, and $30 million for the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant (JABG). These recommendations would help ensure that states are able to continue to protect public safety and address the needs of youth involved with or at risk of coming in contact with the justice system.

In May, the House of Representatives rejected the President’s proposal and instead passed a Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, H.R. 5326, which would drastically cut Title II funds and totally eliminate Title V and JABG funding. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a stronger bill, S. 2323, which would provide $55 million for Title II, $30 million for Title V and $30 for JABG. With the funding included in S. 2323, these programs would be able to continue to improve the lives of youth affected by the juvenile justice system and the wellbeing of communities as a whole.

As you know, there was not agreement on this and other spending bills before the end of the fiscal year in September and the federal government is now operating under a short term Continuing Resolution through March of 2013. While this action staved off the type of cuts proposed by the House, current funding levels continue to be inadequate. Additionally, if Congress is unable to agree to a deficit reduction plan by the end of the year, these juvenile justice programs will face more than $7 million in additional cuts in January 2013 under the sequestration terms of the debt ceiling agreement passed last summer. Despite the fact that this is a modest, yet effective, federal investment, this funding continues to be cut and is now at its lowest level in more than a decade. If sequestration is allowed to take effect, cuts will be even deeper, meaning fewer resources for states and the young people and families they serve.

We know that youth in adult prisons are at high risk for physical and sexual abuse as well as suicide, and often lack access to mental health services. Upon release, they face difficulty readjusting to life outside prison and suffer high rates of recidivism. On the other hand, youth served by delinquency prevention programs and community-based alternatives to incarceration – programs supported by JJDPA and JABG – have lower rates of recidivism and are better able to become productive citizens.

We also know that public safety increases with reduced rates of youth crime, extending the benefits of the JJDPA and JABG programs to the entire community. Funding for these programs will also help reduce long-term prison costs. For every $1 spent on prevention and community-based alternatives – placing youth on the right track to success – taxpayers save up to $8 in lifetime criminal justice costs.

The future of our youth and the safety of our families depend upon adequate funding for the .JJDPA and JABG programs, which cut costs and lower crime rates. For these reasons, we call on you to work with your colleagues to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction and reject additional cuts to these programs which have already taken huge hits.

Reduced federal investment in efforts to enact effective reforms and keep young people on the right track will only further disadvantage youth in the criminal justice system, increase recidivism rates, decrease public safety, and ultimately cost the public more money in the form of lifetime criminal justice costs.