Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act - Giving Youth a Second Chance by anamaulida

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        <p>What is the underlying rationale of state <strong>juvenile
justice</strong> systems? Is it to punish youths who commit crimes or to
rehabilitate youths to give them a second chance? Although this perpetual
debate plays out similarly for incarcerated adults, what is unique to the
juvenile detention discussion is the people who are most affected:
youths. Yes, they are supposed to be corrected when they do something
wrong but, isn't it also important to invest in them and give them the
opportunity to mature and grow into adulthood? When considering factors
that contribute to juvenile delinquency, such as <strong>mental health
and substance use</strong> problems, negative environmental influences,
or complicated family situations, the role of state juvenile justice
systems and community providers becomes clear - to prevent juvenile
delinquency whenever possible and to rehabilitate youths who are in the
system to give them the best chance to succeed.<br><br>Studies have
indicated that 70 percent or more of youths who are securely detained in
a juvenile justice facility have a mental health or related disorder; in
contrast, approximately 20 percent of the general youth population have
such a disorder. According to a public opinion poll focusing on juvenile
delinquency and mental illness, a majority of people polled viewed
alternatives to incarceration - such as community mental health
treatment, mentoring, and vocational training - as effective ways to
rehabilitate youths. In addition, 8 out of 10 polled strongly favored
taking away some of the money states spend on incarcerating youth
offenders and using that funding to pay for counseling, education, and
job training.<br><br>Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act -
<br><br>In response to widespread abuses in state and local juvenile
justice facilities, Congress passed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention Act in 1974. The JJDPA serves as the primary federal funding
stream for juvenile justice services to states and territories that
voluntarily ascribe to its core requirements. Among other requirements,
the JJDPA established rules to ensure that juveniles who commit minor or
"status offenses" are not held in secure confinement, protect juveniles
from being incarcerated in adult jails or lock-ups for extended periods
of time, address the disproportionate contact youths of color have with
the juvenile justice continuum, and other protections. Through these core
requirements, the JJDPA is meant to foster services and supports to
prevent <strong>juvenile delinquency</strong> and, in cases in which
youths enter the juvenile justice system, protections to ensure that they
are not unduly exposed to harm or trauma while
incarcerated.<br><br>According to a 2008 survey of the states conducted
by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, 55 of 56 states and territories
voluntarily participate in the JJDPA and 85 percent are compliant with
all JJDPA core requirements. One of the true benefits of the JJDPA is the
federal/state partnership it creates via the U.S. Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention; as a result, states and territories
greatly value the opportunity to receive technical assistance and share
successful practices with each other and the OJJDP. Through small
investments in successful programs, the federal government is able to
offer the opportunity for states and territories to replicate successful
programs, the result of which is hoped to be an overall improvement in
the way juvenile justice systems respond to youths' unique
needs.<br><br>Although the principles of the JJDPA are laudable and have
created key protections for youths, implementation challenges persist -
funding limitations, lack of appropriate staffing and training, and other
challenges prevent the realization of the original vision of the
JJDPA.<br><br>Reauthorization -<br><br><strong>Advocates of <a
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href="http://www.thenationalcouncil.org/cs/healthcare_reform">mental
healthcare</a></strong> view reauthorization of the JJDPA as an
opportunity to address these challenges. The Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention Act was most recently reauthorized in 2004, and
efforts are underway to reauthorize the act in the 111th Congress. After
being introduced in the Senate, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention Reauthorization Act (S. 678) was approved by the Senate
Judiciary Committee, thus sending the bill to the Senate floor for
consideration. Although a companion bill has yet to be introduced in the
House of Representatives, efforts are underway to push for Senate passage
in 2010 to bolster efforts in the House.<br><br>Among several
improvements, S. 678 takes important steps to strengthen the ability of
state and territorial juvenile justice systems to meet the substance use
and mental health needs of youths by incorporating the
following:<br><br>* New incentives for improving <strong>mental health
and addiction disorder</strong> screenings, treatment, diversion, and re-
entry services.<br>* An increase of federal authorizations for core
juvenile justice programs.<br>* Reinforcements of the relationship
between OJJDP and participating states and territories to facilitate
increased compliance with the core requirements of the JJDPA.<br><br>To
achieve reauthorization of the JJDPA in 2010, an array of advocacy
organizations are participating in a national coalition effort. Through
this coalition, juvenile justice, child welfare and youth development
organizations present a unified message in support of enhancing the
JJDPA.<br><br>Youths who commit crimes often face an uphill battle to
improve their lives, and it is our job as community providers, advocates,
and members of our communities to guide them in a manner that protects
them from danger and gives them the opportunity to achieve more. Although
reauthorization of the JJDPA won't resolve all challenges in serving
justice-involved youths, it will certainly get us closer.</p>         <!--
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