Reauthorization of JJDPA

Importance of Reauthorization

First enacted in 1974, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) has been due for reauthorization since 2007. Almost 40 years after its enactment, the JJDPA is one of the most successful standard-setting statutes at the federal level and at its heart recognizes the value of citizen-driven efforts to prevent and stem delinquency. The success of the JJDPA has been supported in significant part by the national agenda-setting, research, evaluation, oversight, and technical assistance functions of OJJDP. It remains the landmark federal statute—and single most influential piece of federal legislation—providing four substantive safeguards (core protections) for youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system.

On Dec. 11, 2014, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced S. 2999, legislation that would reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). The bill would strengthen the JJDPA’s core protections for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. This bill serves as the first step towards reauthorization of the JJDPA, which expired in 2007. It would, among other things, eliminate use of the Valid Court Order (VCO) exception, provide further assurances that children who are facing charges are not housed with adult inmates, and require communities to address racial and ethnic disparities within their systems.

Reauthorization of the JJDPA is currently more than six years overdue. Reauthorization provides an opportunity to strengthen accountability for federal spending, help states protect public safety, hold delinquent youth accountable, protect our children from harm, and provide rehabilitation services to prevent future delinquency. This landmark law was last reauthorized in 2002, but few substantive changes were made at that time. Since the last major reauthorization of the JJDPA nearly two decades ago, much more is known about what works and does not work to keep our communities safe and put youth on a better path.