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Federal Update

Giving Young People the Second Chance They Deserve

Harmeet Kamboj Wednesday, 18 April 2018 Posted in 2018, Federal Update

By Harmeet Kamboj, Communications Associate

Earlier this month, President Trump signed a presidential proclamation declaring April “Second Chance Month.” This proclamation follows a 2017 bipartisan Senate resolution that called on Americans to “observe Second Chance Month through actions and programs that promote awareness of collateral consequences; and provide closure for individuals who have paid their debts.” After incarcerated people serve their sentences and leave the justice system, their past continues to haunt them by making education, employment, and housing nearly impossible to attain. This month – and always – we must do our due diligence to provide currently and formerly incarcerated Americans with a second chance to build stable and fulfilling lives as productive members of society.

You Have Shown Your Love for Children

Marcy Mistrett Wednesday, 14 February 2018 Posted in 2018, Federal Update

By Marcy Mistrett, CEO

Thank you for showing your love for our children! In celebration of Valentine’s Day, CFYJ is joining the Act-4-JJ Coalition to deliver 535 candy bars to Congress, to encourage them to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).

The State of Youth Justice

Rachel Marshall Monday, 29 January 2018 Posted in 2018, Federal Update

By Rachel Marshall, Federal Policy Counsel

Today is President Trump’s first State of the Union address. As he prepares to address the nation and outline his priorities for the year, we thought it fruitful to write our own “State of Youth Justice” address.

After 14 Years, More Progress Still Needed on Prison Rape Elimination Act

Friday, 01 September 2017 Posted in 2017, Federal Update

By Rachel Marshall, Federal Policy Counsel

Today marks the 14th anniversary of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003, a federal statute focused on sexual assault and victimization in juvenile facilities, adult prisons, jails, lockups, and other detention facilities. In 2012, the regulations for implementation of the law were finalized and issued. One of the most critical components of the regulations is Section 115.14, the Youthful Inmate Standard, which requires agencies to avoid using isolation on youth in adult facilities in order to comply with requirements to house and keep youth and adults separate in adult facilities. A state that does not comply with the Youthful Inmate Standard and other requirements of PREA must use five percent of its designated prison funding from the Department of Justice to come into compliance with the statute.

Voices Elevate to Advance Juvenile Justice Reform

Wednesday, 05 July 2017 Posted in 2017, Federal Update

By Marcy Mistrett, CEO, and Abby McNeal, Juvenile Justice Fellow


Juvenile justice is perhaps one of the only political issues that continues to see strong bipartisan support from Congress. This trend was continued once again last month at the House Judiciary Sub Committee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations held a hearing on juvenile justice reform in the modern era. This hearing comes weeks after the House passed the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) worked with her Republican Sub-Committee members to organize a hearing that prioritized juvenile justice as a critical component to criminal justice reform overall; focusing on successful alternatives to incarceration and the work that still needs to be accomplished around the treatment of youth who remain confined.

How the House’s American Health Care Act bill Threatens Youth Justice Reform

Thursday, 22 June 2017 Posted in 2017, Federal Update

By Marcy Mistrett, CEO

While the Senate will debate their healthcare bill early next week, concerns have already risen with the incredibly cruel health care reform bill narrowly passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month, along solid party lines.  The depth of the damage isn’t yet known, as the House voted on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) without hearings, without a CBO score, amidst threats from the Administration….but early estimates predict that as many as 24 million people are going to lose their healthcare benefits (more than half of whom are on Medicaid).      

U. S. House Approves Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Federal Juvenile Justice Law - Passage Comes Same Day President Trump Releases FY18 Budget Proposal

Tuesday, 23 May 2017 Posted in 2017, Federal Update

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved by voice vote, H.R. 1809, bipartisan legislation to strengthen and update the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (JJDPA).

Alternatives to Youth Incarceration: New Report Calls for the End of Youth Prisons

By Jeree Thomas, CFYJ Policy Director Friday, 28 October 2016 Posted in 2016, Federal Update

By Jeree Thomas, CFYJ Policy Director

“We do not need these huge facilities because all they do is break us down.”  Da’Quon Beaver, a community organizer for the RISE for Youth Campaign, recounted his experience of incarceration in several of Virginia’s large youth prisons on a panel held at the Department of Justice on Friday, October 21st. 

The panel discussion was preceded by a presentation of a new report entitled, The Future of Youth Justice: A Community-Based Alternative to the Youth Prison Model.  The report was written in collaboration between the Harvard Kennedy School and the National Institute of Justice.  It documents not only the failure of the youth prison model, but several state campaigns around the country to replace the model with community-based programs and placements for youth. 

The American Correctional Association’s Policy Could Help Bring Adult Facilities One Step Closer to PREA Compliance

Jeree Thomas Tuesday, 13 September 2016 Posted in 2016, Federal Update

In late August, the American Correctional Association (ACA) announced its newly adopted policy on the use of restrictive housing in adult jails and prisons. In addition to the policy, they announced a set of expected practices or standards that are in the final stages of field testing.

Restrictive housing, also known and experienced by youth and adults across the country as segregation, isolation, and solitary confinement, is dangerous and often inhumane.  Youth and adults placed in restrictive housing are separated from the general population, held in their rooms for 22-hours a day with limited programming, and many times limited human contact.  According to the ACA policy statement, the goal of the policy is to encourage correctional facilities to use the practice in a “justly, humanely and… constitutionally correct manner…”  Specifically, the ACA calls for the creation of policies and procedures that “[f]orbid solitary confinement that results in isolation… [and] [p]rohibit agencies from confining offenders under the age of 18 in extended restrictive housing.” 

This policy on restrictive housing aligns with one of the requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act’s (PREA) Youthful Inmate Standard.

The Youthful Inmate Standard requires agencies to make their best effort to avoid using isolation on youth in adult facilities in order to comply with requirements to house and keep youth and adults separate in adult facilities.[1] The policy also reflects the Department of Justice’s report and recommendations released in January 2016 to limit the use of restrictive house.[2]

On October 15th, Governors across the country will provide the Department of Justice with certification of compliance with PREA or an assurance that they will spend five percent of their funding to come into compliance with PREA.  The ACA’s new policy statement should be used to encourage those Governors who are not in compliance with the Youthful Inmate Standard to makes sure their state correctional policies, procedures, and practices protect youth in adult jails and prison from solitary confinement and extended restrictive housing.  It is critical that Governors hear from communities about the importance of complying with PREA, and particularly the Youthful Inmate Standard which protects one of the most vulnerable populations in adult facilities.  Call, email, write a letter, or tweet your Governor today and during PREA Action Week, October 10th-14th. 

If we want our youth to reenter communities as law-abiding citizens we must at the very least treat them like human beings and show them what it means to be law-abiding.  Tell your Governor to show youth what it means to be law-abiding by ensuring your state is in full compliance with PREA. 
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[1] Youthful Inmate, National PREA Resource Center, (Last Updated Feb. 7, 2013)  http://www.prearesourcecenter.org/faq/youthful-inmates

[2] Report and Recommendations Concerning the Use of Restrictive Housing, U.S. Department of Justice (Jan. 2016) https://www.justice.gov/dag/file/815551/download

SCOTUS Rules Miller retroactive: Continues articulating that ‘kids are different’

Wednesday, 27 January 2016 Posted in 2016, Federal Update

By Carmen Daugherty, CFYJ Policy Director

In the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court’s Miller v. Alabama decision, the Court found that a mandatory sentence of life without possibility of parole is unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment when applied to those who are under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes.  This decision followed several 8th Amendment decisions acknowledging the lesser culpability of youth offenders, including banning the death penalty for youth, and banning life without possibility of parole for youth who commit non-homicide offenses.

This week, the Supreme Court ruled Miller retroactive in Montgomery v. Louisiana. Thus, those youth sentenced to die in prison prior to the Miller decision will now be given a chance at review and possibly parole. Henry Montgomery, who at the age of 17 was convicted of murdering a sheriff, was sentenced to life without the possibility in parole.  “The sentence was automatic upon the jury’s verdict, so Montgomery had no opportunity to present mitigation evidence to justify a less severe sentence. That evidence might have included Montgomery’s young age at the time of the crime; expert testimony regarding his limited capacity for foresight, self-discipline, and judgment; and his potential for rehabilitation.”

The Court noted in Miller that youth are prone to recklessness, immaturity, irresponsibility, more vulnerable to peer pressure, less able to avoid negative environments, and more amenable to rehabilitation than adults and therefore punishment should be “graduated and proportioned” not only to the offense but also to the offender. The Court punctuated these concerns with what it calls a “foundational principle: that imposition of a State’s most severe penalties on juvenile offenders cannot proceed as though they were not children.” In the Court’s Montgomery decision, these foundational principles continued to influence the court’s 6-3 decision.  

For a further analysis and full opinions, see here.  

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