Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress (and the 114th Congress before that) in order to reauthorize funding for the currently lapsed JABG program. After this bill passed the House in the previous session of Congress, Rep. Jackson Lee said:
“This is an important piece of legislation and the need for it is compelling. Each day an estimated 160,000 students in this country refuse to go to school because they fear being bullied by their peers, and many more attend school in a chronic state of anxiety and depression. In addition, six out of ten American youth witness bullying at least once a day, and nearly 30 percent — or 5.7 million children — are involved in bullying as victims, perpetrators, or both. One out of seven students in Grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying… Specifically, this bill makes positive steps toward reform in juvenile justice. It targets bullying and bullying prevention. This bill reauthorizes the award of grants to consider this problem in the amount of $30 million for one year. Moreover, this bill subjects grants to accountability measures: the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Justice (DOJ) must conduct annual audits of selected grant recipients and the Department of Justice must submit an annual certification to Congress and identify and report on duplicative grant awards. This bill is a fitting memorial to a talented, committed and idealistic young lawyer who cared passionately about fixing a broken criminal justice system so that it is fair for all. Tiffany Joslyn was a warrior for criminal justice reform, and cared much about the vulnerabilities and issues facing communities of color, and where they intersect with the criminal justice system.”
Now-retired Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who supported this bill in the 114th Congress, said reauthorization of this program would send a clear message of support for juvenile justice initiatives:
“A reauthorization of this program will send a clear message to our colleagues on the appropriations committee that we support reinstating funding for this program…. It is in our country’s interest to see juvenile offenders leave behind a life of criminality and become productive citizens.”
Marcy Mistrett, CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice and co-chair of the Act 4JJ Coalition (consisting of over 150 children’s advocacy, legal, medical, and educational organizations), expressed her support for this bill in 2016:
“Reauthorization of JABG contributes to states’ abilities to build effective, age-appropriate accountability and prevention measures to ensure children get needed services and that communities remain safe.”
This bill has one cosponsor in the current Congress, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). Rep. Jackson Lee has introduced it in three successive Congresses, starting with the 114th. The first time this bill was introduced, in the 114th Congress, it passed the House Judiciary Committee without any cosponsors. In the 115th Congress, it passed the House without objection without any cosponsors.
Of Note: The JABG program — which once provided grants for state and local initiatives holding youth accountable for their behavior in age- and developmentally-appropriate ways, such as graduated sanctions like curfews and drug testing instead of incarceration, alternatives to detention for status offenses and diversion assessment tools — was allowed to lapse in 2009, and has received no funding since 2013. Funding for the program decreased through the 2000s, from $250 million in 2002 to $25 million in 2013.
While it existed, the JABG program gave the DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) funds to help states and communities implement accountability-based programs. The JABG program awarded federal block grants to the 50 states, D.C., and the five U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands), as well as OJJDP training and technical assistance to help states and communities develop, operate, and measure the effectiveness of accountability programs.
This bill is named for a decreased former staffer in Rep. Jackson Lee’s office, Tiffany May Joslyn, who died in an automobile accident in 2016. Joslyn worked for Rep. Jackson Lee as the Deputy Chief Counsel for the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Homeland Security, Terrorism, and Investigations. After her passing, Rep. Jackson Lee praised Joslyn, saying, “Tiffany May Joslyn cannot be replaced due to the level of passion and compassion she showed to get our criminal justice system moving in the right direction.”
In fiscal year 2018, Congress increased funding for juvenile justice programs to nearly $283 million, representing the largest appropriation since fiscal year 2010.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / William_Potter)