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Juvenile Justice Act Reauthorization: The Current Debate

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Publication Date: February 1998

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: 98-95



Some criminologists and policymakers argue that the United States is on the verge of a teenage crime explosion, as the children of baby boomers reach the ages at which they are most likely to commit crimes. Others maintain that such a prediction is overblown.

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-415; 88 Stat. 1109), as amended, expired on September 30, 1996. Recent debate on juvenile justice policy highlights several areas that Congress will continue to address: (1) the desirability of a “get tough” policy, as opposed to a more rehabilitative approach to juvenile justice; (2) whether to continue funding for states to remove juveniles from adult lockups; and (3) the controversy regarding the detention of proportionately more minority juveniles.

Policymakers and legislators at the federal, state, and local levels are considering a variety of approaches to reduce youth violence and prevent juvenile crime. First, the 105th Congress is considering legislation to amend and reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. In addition, congressional leaders and President Clinton have proposed a number of juvenile justice measures that may be incorporated into the act or into separate juvenile justice reform measures. For example, FY1998 appropriations for the Department of Justice (P.L. 105-119) contained increased funding for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention ($238.7 million) and new monies for the Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grant ($250 million), based on the requirements in H.R. 3/McCollum.

At the state and local levels, officials have proposed several approaches to combat juvenile delinquency, such as removing violent juvenile offenders from the juvenile justice system, new dispositions and sentencing options, and more open juvenile proceedings and records.