In its massive federal appropropriations bill being approved this week, Congress is killing a longstanding U.S. Justice Department program to help improve state and local juvenile justice systems–the Juvenile Accountability Block Grants (JABG). The action continues a trend of reducing federal aid for juvenile justice projects. The JABG program, created by Congress in the 1990s when juvenile crime was a much more prominent public issue, had dwindled to only a $25 million budget last year, tiny by Washington standards. Its allocation had been reduced 90 percent since fiscal year 2002, says the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, a private organization that represents juvenile justice interests in Washington. Overall, the federal bill reduces federal spending on juvenile justice by $11 million to $255 million, but it increases grant money to states from $44 million to $55 million.
In response to the pending Congressional action, the coalition said, “While we commend Congress for including in their budget proposal several new juvenile justice initiatives consistent with those called for by our membership, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice is deeply disappointed that the appropriators chose to terminate the much-needed Juvenile Accountability Block Grant (JABG) program. JABG funding has enabled states to develop and implement essential system improvements including the hiring of key staff, the development of alternatives to detention, and the training of juvenile justice professionals in evidence-supported and accountability-based practices. Unfortunately, this latest cut is consistent with Congress' more than decade-long trend of reducing crucial funding for juvenile justice, and is all the more troubling as it occurred during a period when the field continues to make significant strides in developing and implementing approaches that work for youth, families and communities.” More details on the program can be found here.