On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 5963, the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act of 2016, as amended, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 5963 was introduced on September 8, 2016, by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce, which ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote on September 14, 2016.
H.R. 5963 reauthorizes the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act to better support states and local entities as they explore and implement ways to serve at-risk youth and juvenile offenders. Specifically, the legislation:
- Requires the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs (OJJDP) to prioritize evidence-based and promising strategies as well as use current, reliable information to focus on long-term solutions to reduce juvenile delinquency;
- Updates the purpose, duties, and members of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. As an independent entity, the Council coordinates all federal juvenile delinquency programs and activities, and is required to review the programs and practices conducted by federal agencies relating to juvenile justice;
- Updates the required information included in the Administrator’s annual report to Congress including the treatment of juveniles and their circumstances before and after release, and how state and local programs receiving funding are considered promising and built upon current, reliable evidence;
- Ensures the state advisory groups that assist in the development of state plans are comprised of knowledgeable stakeholders who are active in the field of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention;
- Requires a state plan to be updated to include identifying alternatives to detention, screening for human trafficking victims, and providing appropriate accommodations for pregnant juveniles. Additionally, state agencies are encouraged to collaborate on creating a smooth transition out of the juvenile justice system, specifically in the areas of education and reentry, family engagement, and community-based services;
- Phases out the use of a valid court order for status offenders to ensure status offenders are able to receive services within the community and not be exposed to potentially dangerous influences in a secure confinement setting;
- Requires the Administrator to issue an annual plan for research and evaluation to focus on areas of reentry, mental and behavioral health, and the conditions in secure confinement settings. In addition, H.R. 5963 includes areas of new research in identifying successful methods used to recruit and retain personnel in the juvenile justice system, examining the effects of involvement with the juvenile justice system, and identifying successful, cost-effective efforts to reduce recidivism. The bill also requires the Administrator to conduct a study that analyzes the barriers faced by states and Indian tribes to provide services to juveniles, provides a description of best practices, and provides an assessment of living arrangements for juveniles who cannot return home;
- Requires the Administrator to provide technical assistance and training to help states properly administer and comply with the bill, including the issuance of best practices for legal representation of children;
- Restructures the existing local delinquency prevention grant program to help assess and respond to unmet needs within the community. Eligible states award five-year grants to local communities for programs with an emphasis on community engagement and coordination; and
- Requires accountability and oversight to be conducted by personnel within the Department of Justice relating to audits, state and tribal compliance, and internal controls at OJJDP.
The first juvenile court was established in Illinois in 1899. By 1925, nearly every state had established a juvenile court system. Since 1974, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act has coordinated federal resources aimed at improving state juvenile justice systems with a focus on education and rehabilitation.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the Department of Justice serves as the main federal office focused on juvenile delinquency prevention and coordination of federal grant programs. The Act was most recently authorized in 2002, but expired in 2007 and 2008. Some programs have continued to receive appropriations.
Over the years, state juvenile justice programs have been able to help kids develop the life skills they need to hold themselves accountable and achieve success. However, not all juvenile justice programs have seen the same results. According to the Committee, approximately 2 million children are currently involved in the juvenile justice system, and many more are at risk of entering because of difficult circumstances. Of those incarcerated, 26% of youth are less likely to graduate high school, and are 26% more likely to engage in other unlawful activity.
According to the bill’s sponsor, “Giving our nation’s at-risk youth and juvenile offenders the services they need to get on the right track gives them a chance to succeed. It’s important that these children are afforded the opportunity to be active, engaged members of their communities. This bill will help kids find a path to long-term success by targeting resources to programs proven to work, particularly those that are community-based. Currently, about two million children are in the juvenile justice system, their involvement often stemming from challenging personal circumstances they face.”
 Internal Education and the Workforce Committee documents
 See Rep. Curbelo’s Press Release, September 9, 2016
A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates is currently unavailable.
For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.