September | October 2016

President Obama Proclaims October 2016 National Youth Justice Awareness Month, Highlights OJJDP Initiative
 

National Youth Justice Awareness Month

On September 30, 2016, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation designating October 2016 as National Youth Justice Awareness Month. “When we invest in our children and redirect young people who have made misguided decisions, we can reduce our overreliance on the juvenile and criminal justice systems and build stronger pathways to opportunity,” said President Obama.

Although significant justice system reforms have been made, much work remains to be done—especially in reducing the disparities experienced by children of color, particularly black and Hispanic males and Native American youth, who remain overrepresented across all levels of the juvenile justice system.

Even though the number of juvenile arrests have fallen sharply over the past decade, approximately 1 million juvenile arrests were made in 2014. The majority of these arrests were for nonviolent crimes. Any involvement with the juvenile justice system, even if a young person is not adjudicated delinquent, can interfere with their ability to become successful and engaged citizens.

Furthermore, on any given day, nearly 51,000 youth are currently held in juvenile justice facilities, even though research has shown that positive outcomes for nonviolent youth and improved public safety are more readily achieved through community-based services, at a fraction of the cost of incarceration.

left quoteThe United States Constitution guarantees children the right to counsel in juvenile court proceedings. Unfortunately, too many children appear in court without the benefit of counsel. Children deserve attorneys who can represent their expressed interest and protect their due process rights.right quote

—OJJDP Administrator Robert L. Listenbee

For more than four decades, OJJDP has worked with states, as well as tribal and local jurisdictions, to prevent delinquency, reduce recidivism, and improve outcomes for youth, families, and communities.

One agency reform effort—the Smart on Juvenile Justice initiative—was specifically acknowledged in the proclamation for its work to:

  • Provide job training and substance use disorder treatment and counseling for youth in juvenile facilities.
  • Expand the use of effective community-based alternatives to youth detention.
  • Screen youth for exposure to violence and trauma that can put them at greater risk of entering the juvenile justice system.

OJJDP’s Smart on Juvenile Justice initiative focuses on implementing statewide juvenile justice reforms that emphasize prevention and cost-effective community-based services as an alternative to out-of-home placement for nonviolent youth.

The proclamation also highlighted the need to provide youth with second chances through reforming the juvenile justice system. “We must make sure youth in every community and from every walk of life can be known for more than their worst mistakes. With enhanced possibilities...they can all thrive and live up to the full measure of their promise,” said President Obama.

In 2016, the Department of Justice awarded $53 million in Second Chance Act grants. OJJDP’s Second Chance grants support community supervision reform and training state and local community supervision agencies; help reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for young fathers and mothers returning to their children, families, and communities; fund implementation of statewide changes to service delivery for youth; and sustain efforts to improve outcomes for juveniles under community supervision.

OJJDP’s ongoing work to address these and other issues related to youth justice includes sponsoring research, providing funding, and implementing initiatives that make a real difference in youth’s lives. The Office’s recently released Youth Justice Reform Framework provides links to programs, research and data, training and technical assistance, and policy guidance documents—including guidance on Girls and the Juvenile Justice System.

Resources:

Visit OJJDP’s National Youth Justice Awareness Month webpage.