It has been a dozen years since Congress reauthorized the landmark federal law on juvenile justice standards. Now incoming Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have introduced a new version of the legislation. The Hill newspaper says the move is an early signal of the committee's potential criminal justice agenda. Grassley has been particularly supportive of new accountability measures in the bill to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).
One advocate said Grassley's sponsorship will be a boon for the bill, but the measure still has a long journey to becoming law. “I think as head of Judiciary, with his name on it, that is going to be a huge help,” said Marcy Mistrett, CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice. The juvenile system is estimated to detain 60,000 minors on any given night. One update would make it harder for states to lock up children who have committed “status offenses” that would not be an offense if they were an adult, like running away from home or skipping school. Another would require that states do more to make sure they are not confining minors near adults. It would also give states new direction on how to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system.