Juvenile Justice

If youth are to realize their full potential, society must invest in supports to families and communities that promote child and family wellness, such as quality education, healthcare, proper nutrition, recreation, employment, spiritual life, and access to basic infrastructure, such as transportation, emergency services, and housing. Research has shown us that youth respond best to services that are asset- and developmentally-based, trauma-responsive, focused on opportunities, resources, coaching, and supports so that youth can develop the competencies they need to mature and become well-adjusted adults. While most reform falls under the purview of states, Tribes, and local governments, the Federal government can still play a key role in supporting state juvenile justice systems.

NJJDPC supports building on innovative and evidence-based approaches to create and sustain juvenile systems that cost less in terms of both human suffering and financing, enhance public safety, prevent delinquency and court contact, and give court-involved youth the best possible opportunity to live safe, healthy, and fulfilling lives. 

Act 4 Juvenile Justice

ACT4JJ is a campaign of the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition(NJJDPC), which represents more than 180 national organizations who work on youth development and juvenile justice issues. ACT4JJ is composed of juvenile justice, child welfare and youth development organizations advocating for the re authorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) and increased federal funding for juvenile justice programs and services. 

School Climate

Academic success plays a crucial role in preventing delinquent behavior and promoting positive outcomes for youth and safer communities. Youth who drop out or are pushed out of school have fewer opportunities for gainful employment and are more likely to commit delinquent acts than youth who remain in school. Research has demonstrated that expanded zero tolerance school disciplinary policies have too often led to suspensions, expulsions, and push-out of students for a broad range of student behaviors that are not violent or a threat to school safety, but rather typical of normal adolescent development. Zero tolerance disconnects students from their school and criminalizes youth, particularly youth of color, LGBTQ youth, and youth with disabilities for behaviors and infractions that can and should be prevented and addressed within schools without pushing youth out of school or involving law enforcement and justice system referrals.

Additionally, reliance on law enforcement in schools to maintain discipline can result in youth ending up in the juvenile and criminal justice systems for matters more appropriately handled by school personnel. As the presence of law enforcement and school resource officers (SROs) in schools has increased, the percentage of arrests and referrals to the juvenile justice system from schools, generally, have also increased. The presence of law enforcement in schools has effects that transform the school from an academic environment to a site of criminal law enforcement. Further, students are often arrested for normal childhood behavior. In at least 22 states, it is now a crime to disrupt school, and SROs have arrested students for things like wearing too much perfume or burping repeatedly.This comes at the expense of students’ rights and their education. Youth of color are especially vulnerable to over-policing in schools, which increase both the racial-academic divide and racially skewed arrest rates.

NJJDPC supports legislation and policies that effectively addresses the school-to-prison pipeline and the disciplinary policies and practices that can push students out of school and into the justice system. We reject proposals that would increase law enforcement presence in schools and/or unnecessarily and inappropriately increase the number of youth who come in contact with the justice system.

Immigrant Youth

Out of the estimated 10.7 million non-citizen immigrants living in America today, approximately one million are children under 18 years old. Many of these youth have

come to this country fleeing violence and oppression, carry complex emotional burdens from trauma, and face basic language barriers.115 As national anti-immigrant rhetoric has escalated to the point of associating immigrants with animals and infestation and equating immigrant youth with gang members, these youthful immigrants have often become caught in the cross-hairs of the justice system.Rather than being supported to develop into successful adults, immigrant youth are more often being targeted for arrest, detention, and deportation.

NJJDPC supports policies that uplift all families and further best practices for positive youth development for all youth, regardless of immigration status, including legislation to protect the confidentiality of all youth in the justice system, including immigrant youth; avoid detaining immigrant youth; and incentivize states to not use gang databases and to pass legislation to ensure youth in the justice system have access to defense counsel that understand the immigration consequences of juvenile justice system involvement and, where necessary, access to immigration attorneys. We also support and invest in outreach programs, and community and family support services to help immigrant youth deal with trauma, family reunification and social stressors to ensure they feel connected to their new communities.