Congress Hears Plea To Bolster Teen-Adult Jail Separation


The fact that the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing yesterday on the federal juvenile justice bill indicates that a reauthorization of the program may make it to the floor of both houses this year, reports Youth Today. The committee heard testimony from juvenile justice advocates and those who have been affected by the current act. Tracy McClard of Jackson, Mo., delivered harrowing testimony about her son Jonathan's experience as juvenile transferred to adult court in Missouri. Jonathan, who in 2007 shot an abusive boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend, was held in county jails while he awaited trial and eventually hanged himself.

McClard asked the committee to expand the scope of two current provisions in the federal law: removal of juveniles from adult jails and sight and sound separation of juveniles from adult inmates when juveniles are held in adult jails. Neither protection is currently afforded to juveniles who are transferred into adult court. “When children are put in with adults they die, physically or mentally,” McClard told the committee. The National District Attorneys Association continues to support a state's right to use its own standards to determine which juveniles need to be detained or confined. NDAA Executive Director Scott Burns told the hearing “prosecutors, defenders and judges must have freedom to craft individual sanctions in order to protect the victim, the community and the juvenile offender.”

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