House Appropriators Zero Out Juvenile Justice Appropriations

Money for the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) would be eliminated under the spending bill published today by the the House Committee on Appropriations.

The bill, which will be taken up by the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee tomorrow, would essentially end for at least one year the four-decade agreement between the Justice Department and states on certain basic standards for juvenile justice systems.

Two years ago, the committee came close to zeroing out the act, proposing just $20 million.

Under the JJDPA, states receive an annual formula grant from Justice in exchange for complying with four “core protections” for youth:

  • Not detaining youth for status offenses, transgressions that would not be illegal for adults.
  • Not jailing juveniles in facilities that house adults, with specific and limited exceptions.
  • Maintaining “sight and sound” separation of juveniles in the few exceptional instances where juveniles are housed with adults.
  • Making meaningful efforts to address disproportionate minority contact in state juvenile justice systems.

States are docked 20 percent of their grant for each of the four protections that they fail to comply with. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has been investigating shortcomings and potential fraud in the compliance monitoring done by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

But those problems did not deter Grassley from introducing bipartisan legislation last week that would reauthorize JJDPA for an additional five years.

Funding for states under JJPDA has been slashed for several years. The appropriation for Title II Formula Grants, the primary JJPDA funding stream, declined from $75 million in 2010 to $40 million in 2012.

The Title II appropriation rose to $55 million in 2015. But a longtime complementary funding stream called the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant ($55 million in 2010) has been zeroed for the past two years.

The Appropriations Committee bill would only fund the following under “Juvenile Justice Programs:”

  • $95 million for youth mentoring grants, which splits into major grants to national organizations and smaller grants to multi-state and local programs.
  • $19 million for victims of child abuse, which is distributed to Child Advocacy Centers.
  • $68 million for missing and exploited children programs, which is generally divided between the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children and the various Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces. 
  • $1.5 million for child abuse training conducted for judicial personnel.

The committee also includes a $2.5 million program “to improve juvenile indigent defense” in its $409 million appropriation for Justice Assistance Grants.

John Kelly is an editor for The Imprint.

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