Is Federal Juvenile Justice Aid So Low That States Will Drop Out?


When Congress last reauthorized the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act in 2002, it appropriated $547 million for juvenile justice. Today, spending totals less than half that amount: $251 million. Some advocates say that falls far short of needs at a critical juncture for federal juvenile justice funding. There are signs of possible reauthorization of the law this year. A National Academy of Sciences report has urged a radical rethinking of the approach to juvenile justice reform at the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Some advocates said funding levels for formula grants to states to help them comply with standards on the care of youths in the juvenile justice system have declined so much that some states may forgo the money and no longer even try to comply with the standards. After years of precipitous declines, the formula grants to states now total only about $400,000 each a year for many states. The reauthorized federal law would increase states' compliance requirements, and thus costs. “If the money goes down, keeps getting smaller and smaller and smaller, to the point where states aren't getting much at all, then you're going to have more and more states probably just saying, 'Never mind, it's not worth it. You're not giving us enough money for all the hoops that we have to jump through to get it,'” said Melissa Sickmund of the Pittsburgh-based National Center for Juvenile Justice.

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