House Cosponsors: Reps. Steve Cohen, Elijah Cummings, Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, Luis Gutierrez, Ro Khanna, Sean Patrick Maloney, Gwen Moore, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jamie Raskin, Juan Vargas.
Senate Sponsors: Senator Bob Casey, Senator Rand Paul.
Please join me in cosponsoring the Prohibiting Detention of Youth Status Offenders Act (H.R. 1885).
This important bill would end unnecessary and harmful incarceration of children for behavior that would not be a crime if the offender was an adult.
This issue has enjoyed bipartisan support in the House and Senate, most recently being included in bipartisan bill to reauthorize the JJDPA, one of which passed the House unanimously in the 114th Congress. It is also supported by several leading youth and juvenile justice organizations, among them the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
In 1974, Congress passed a series of core mandates to guide state juvenile justice policy. One of these mandates prohibited states from putting incarcerating children for offenses that would not be a crime if committed by an adult – like truancy, curfew, or running away from home (status offenses). Studies show that locked confinement does not address the underlying causes of this behavior, and could even make it worse.
However, in 1984 Congress created a loophole to allow incarceration if the child violated a court order. This provision, the Valid Court Order (VCO) Exception, has since been used more than a thousand times a year in a handful of states, despite the fact that states increasingly have better and cheaper ways of helping children succeed without being locked up. A number of states have already outlawed the VCO Exception, and it is time for the rest of the country to do the same.
This bill would close this loophole and to stop confining children for these offenses within three years, with a one-year extension for states that can demonstrate hardship.
Please join me in ending this ineffective and wasteful measure by signing on as a cosponsor of the Prohibiting Detention of Youth Status Offenders Act (H.R. 1885).