ACLU Comment on House Juvenile Justice Vote
WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives voted to pass the “Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2017” today, which updates and improves key elements of the “Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act” that was first enacted in 1974 to provide states and localities with standards and funding for improving juvenile justice policies.
Jennifer Bellamy, American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel, had the following reaction:
“Children who run away are often fleeing abusive or unstable home environments and incarcerating them for this is a particularly cruel and illogical response to their situations. The ‘Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2017’ provides resources to address the root cause of this behavior rather than just continuing the punitive cycle that so much of America’s youth live through.
“This vote is a step in the right direction towards a cost effective, common sense, and compassionate juvenile justice system designed to divert at-risk youth from a life of institutionalization and to protect those who are incarcerated.”
Children that are prosecuted through juvenile courts for status offenses, such as running away from home, remain subject to arbitrary conditions of release. More importantly, the circumstances that lead a particular child to commit his or her first status offense often go unaddressed. Without addressing the root cause, kids often commit the same offense again and end up in detention as a result.
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The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.
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Youth are still developing, so as a result society treats kids and adults differently in several contexts, such as driving and serving in the military. Yet in the criminal justice system, we treat youth as adults.