Ah, good. We’re one step closer toward reauthorizing the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Senate Judiciary Committee chairman has announced that hearings will be scheduled following Easter recess, and he’s officially on board. “It should be reauthorized,” Leahy indicated. “One of the things I learned when I was a prosecutor is if you ignore problems of juveniles you’ll have much, much greater problems later on.”
This news comes courtesy of WPTZ, the local NBC affiliate in Plattsburgh, New York, which also reaches residents in Leahy’s home state of Vermont. The video, accompanied by an adapted transcript, makes an implicit argument for smart, sensible (i.e., un-adultified) treatment of juvenile offenders by way of Paul Winauski, a Montpelier resident who was arrested at 16 for assaulting a homeless man. Rather than send him into the adult prison system, though, the judge in his case agreed to refer him to juvenile court. On the juvenile side, Winauski was given therapy and treatment for substance abuse; now, ten years later, he’s married and holding down a full-time management job.
If you read the article and/or watch the video, you’ll hear from Liz Ryan, a leading national advocate who directs the Campaign for Youth Justice and has been at the forefront of pushing for JJDPA reauthorization. You’ll also hear from Leahy, who says that “we ought to be doing more” to help troubled teens turn their lives around. “Let’s get them alternatives, let’s work with them,” he says. “Let’s make sure they don’t become criminals.” This spring, with Leahy’s leadership, federal lawmakers will have a great opportunity to do just that, by strengthening the core requirements of the JJDPA.
For background on the JJDPA and more info on what’s at stake, check out the Act4JJ website and read these posts on the Juvienation backlog: