This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider reauthorizing an updated version of the 1974 federal law that provides for the separation of jailed juveniles and adults. The Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2008 strengthens protections for juveniles while safeguarding judicial discretion to deal with exceptional cases, says the Washington Post. It calls for preservation and expansion of programs that have been particularly effective in combating delinquency and crime among youth, including mentoring and after-school supervision.
The Post editorializes that the measure should be amended to explicitly allow prosecutors and other officials to flag for judges the juveniles they believe would be a danger to other minors and so would be better held in adult quarters. The legislation also would set stricter limits on detention for status offenders — youths who are picked up for skipping school or running away from home. The Justice Department says the existing version of the law cost taxpayers just under $300 million last year. The Post calls it “real money but a fair price to pay for smart and effective programs.”