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The National Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Coalition Puts Forward Comprehensive Juvenile Justice Reform Recommendations to the Obama Administration

Last week, the National Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Coalition (NJJDPC) -- a coalition comprising more than 300 national, state and local organizations working together to ensure healthy families, build strong communities and improve community safety released "Promoting Safe Communities: Report and Recommendations to the Obama Administration" to urge the President to restore a more effective system of juvenile justice for youth by focusing on five priority areas.

The NJJDPC recommends that the Administration restore federal leadership in juvenile justice policy such as increasing funding for juvenile justice reforms, supporting the reauthorization and state implementation of the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), strengthening the partnership between the federal government and the states, ensuring that program policies and practices involve families, implementing recommendations from the Attorney General's Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence (which he co-chaired) as well as improving data collection.

In addition, the NJJDPC urges the Administration to support prevention, early intervention and diversion strategies by advocating for the elimination of the Valid Court Order (VCO) exception to the JJDPA, supporting community-based alternatives to incarceration, improving school safety and reducing exclusionary school disciplinary practices, improving access to and quality of mental health and behavior health services, addressing the specific needs of girls, and promoting cultural competence on LGBTQI youth.

Further, the coalition advocates that the Administration ensure safety and fairness for court-involved youth by strengthening the jail removal core protection in the JJDPA, reducing the disparate treatment of youth of color, fully implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations, reducing the use of restraints and isolation, ensuring adequate representation of system-involved youth, investing in the National Center for Youth in Custody, and encouraging states to keep youth off sex offender registries.

As the Attorney General's Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence recommended that children be removed from the adult criminal justice system and in light of the recent Supreme Court decisions, the NJJDPC is recommending that the Administration assist states in removing youth from adult criminal court and adult facilities, amend federal sentencing guidelines and change DOJ policy related to juvenile offenders.

Finally, to support youth reentry, the NJJDPC encourages the Administration to increase federal coordination and funding for youth reentry, promote a continuum of education for delinquent youth, support year-round programming for delinquent and reentering youth, encourage education and employment training services for youth offenders and remove barriers to health care for incarcerated youth.

With the announcement earlier this month that the President intended to appoint Bob Listenbee as the Administrator for the Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), we are hopeful that he will spearhead the federal government's role in these vital juvenile justice reforms. The focus of the recommendations center on OJJDP, but also include numerous other agencies with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) such as the Office of the Attorney General, the Civil Rights Division, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the National Institute of Corrections as well as newer DOJ initiatives such as the National Center for Youth in Custody and the PREA Resource Center. We hope to meet with Bob Listenbee as soon as he sets foot in Washington to discuss ways the NJJDP Coalition can advance this important agenda. And we anticipate seeing some of these recommendations incorporated into the President's budget when it is released.

Liz Ryan is President and CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice.