Across the nation, juvenile courts and corrections systems are littered with poorly
conceived strategies that increase crime, endanger young people and damage their
future prospects, waste billions of taxpayer dollars, and violate our deepest held
principles about equal justice under the law.
These problematic practices persist even
as scholars, advocates, and hands-on juvenile justice practitioners have vastly expanded
our understanding of what works (and doesn’t work) in combating delinquency over the
past 20 years, as well as how to undertake effective system reform.
Indeed, among all of the policy areas affecting vulnerable children and families,
juvenile justice probably suffers the most glaring gaps between best practice and
common practice, between what we know works and what our public systems most
often do on our behalf.
The most urgent need is to reduce our wasteful,
counterproductive overreliance on incarceration and detention, and instead to redirect
resources into proven strategies that cost less, enhance public safety, and increase the
success of youth who come in contact with the juvenile courts.
disparities and combating abuse in juvenile facilities also require immediate attention.
While juvenile justice is largely a state and local responsibility, the federal government
can and should make a crucial contribution.
Often, states and localities lack the
financial resources and technical know-how to reform their juvenile programs and
practices, and they have long looked to Washington for guidance.
Indeed, since the
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) was passed in 1974,
Washington has often played a vital role in setting minimum standards, conducting and
disseminating research on best practices, and providing funding to help states and
localities improve their juvenile systems.
Unfortunately, in recent years the federal
government’s role in juvenile justice has suffered due to inattention and drift.
With the landmark JJDPA up for reauthorization in 2009, the Obama administration has
an unparalleled opportunity to use the resources and influence of the federal
government to jumpstart a long-overdue renaissance in our nation’s approach to
The Annie E. Casey Foundation
Restore the capacity
of the Office of
Prevention (OJJDP) to
serve as a national
incubator and catalyst
for improving juvenile
justice policies and
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Focus the energy and
resources of OJJDP
and other federal
agencies on crucial
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Improve the juvenile