Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act

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The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 is a United States federal law providing funds to states that follow a series of federal protections, known as the "core protections," on the care and treatment of youth in the justice system. The four "core protections" of the act are:

  • Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders (DSO) -- the deinstitutionalization of status offenders and non-offenders requires that youth who are runaways, truants or curfew violators cannot be detained in juvenile detention facilities or adult jails;
  • "Sight and Sound" -- The "Sight and Sound" separation protection disallows contact between juvenile and adult offenders (i.e. if juveniles are put in an adult jail or lock up under the limited circumstances the law allows for, they must be separated from adult inmates);
  • "Jail Removal" -- The "Jail Removal" disallows the placement of youth in adult jails and lock ups except under very limited circumstances;
  • Disproportionate Minority Confinement (DMC) -- The DMC provision requires states to address the issue of over-representation of youth of color in the justice system.

The "DSO" and "Sight and Sound" protections were part of the original law in 1974. The "Jail Removal" provision was added in 1980 in response to finding youth incarcerated in adult facilities resulted in "a high suicide rate, physical, mental, and sexual assault, inadequate care and programming, negative labeling, and exposure to serious offenders and mental patients." [1] The "DMC" requirement was added in the JJDPA in 1992. [2]

The compliance of states towards the requirements of the JJDP Act is monitored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. [3] As of 2000, the "vast majority" of participating states comply with the first three requirements and are making strides towards the fourth. [4]. With the exception of Wyoming, all states participate in the program.

Reauthorization bill[edit]

On June 18, 2008, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced S.3155 [5], a bill to reauthorize the juvenile delinquency prevention programs of the JJDPA through FY2013, saying, "With the reauthorization of this important legislation, we recommit to these important goals but also push the law forward in key ways to better serve our communities and our children." [1]

The reauthorization bill makes changes to the original bill in that it, among other things:

  • eliminates the exception to detaining status offenders, the "Valid Court Order" (VCO) exception (a "loophole" added into the law in 1980).
  • keeps kids out of adult jails and prisons (with limited exceptions);
  • requires states to reduce racial & ethnic disparities;
  • creates incentives for the use of programs that research has shown to work best;
  • refocuses attention on prevention programs intended to keep children from ever entering the juvenile or criminal justice systems.[2]

On July 31, 2008, the bill was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee with broad bipartisan support.[3] However, it was never voted on in the Senate.

The bill was reintroduced in 2009, S. 678, and is cosponsored by Senators Leahy, Kohl, Durbin, Franken, Collins and Snowe. S. 678 was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 17, 2009. Companion legislation, H.R. 6029, was introduced in the House by Representatives Keith Ellison (MN-D) and Robert C. Scott (VA-D).[4]

National, state and local organizations of youth, parents, youth service providers, juvenile justice professionals, detention and corrections officials and other juvenile and adult criminal justice system stakeholders launched a national campaign, Act 4 Juvenile Justice, to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). The Campaign for Youth Justice was one such organization.

Additional information on the JJDPA, background history, recommendations, hearing proceedings, facts and research can be found at: http://www.act4jj.org.

Information on the "Jail Removal" and "Sight and Sound" requirements in the JJDPA can be found at: http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/jjdpa.html.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ THOMAS (Library of Congress) Congressional Record: Page: S5761
  2. ^ THOMAS (Library of Congress) Congressional Record: Page S5761
  3. ^ PR Newswire, Juvenile Justice Organizations and Advocates Applaud Senate Judiciary Members on the Approval of Strong JJDPA Legislation, July 31, 2008
  4. ^ See H.R. 6029, 111th Cong. (2d Sess. 2010).