The JDDPA Matters: How Justice Investments Helped Shape 5 Young Leaders

Campaign for Youth Justice
Rachel Marshall
December 5, 2017

Federal investments matter to state efforts to improve juvenile justice approaches. Here are just a few real-world examples.

'Tis the season ... for Congress to debate federal spending and proposed changes to the tax laws. Federal investments play an essential role in allowing states to reform their juvenile justice approaches to protect youth and promote safe communities. The current tax plans being debated in Congress will add over $1 trillion to the nation’s debt, and when attention turns to reducing this deficit, juvenile justice programs are likely to face cuts.

The plans come at a time when federal funding for juvenile justice programs has already declined to the lowest levels in more than a decade.

We know that federal investment in juvenile justice programs is critically important to helping young people get back on the right track. Without supportive systems for young people who come in contact with the law, the justice system can be a revolving door. We also know that young people of color are over-represented at every step of our justice system, from arrest through to being sentenced as adults.

Without targeted services and supports, and with the stigma of an adult conviction, many of these young people will be left behind for poor decisions they made before they even finished high school. In every state and county across the country, we see shining examples of young people who have received appropriate services and are now leaders in their communities:


Like Jim from New York who, thanks to a family-based setting in Boys Town, was able to deal with trauma from his past and complete his education while maintaining a relationship with his family.

Jim now runs his own nonprofit helping other young people, and just published his first book, A Stone of Hope.




Or Alton, who was arrested and spent two years fighting charges that were eventually dropped in California.

He is now completing his education at Morehouse, and is eligible for federal financial aid.



Or Jabreia, who was part of both the foster care and youth justice systems and received age-appropriate trauma-and mental health services. She now lives on her own, is working, and is a mother to two children.



Or Kent, who was raised in a community riddled with violence in California, but got the services he needed.

Kent is now finishing his college degree and has been hired by the justice system to mentor and support other people like him.


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Or Cassidy from Kentucky, who first came in contact with the law for truancy. She found the supports she needed at the Opportunity Program at YMCA Safe Places Services (which was able to expand thanks in part to federal funding). Thanks to the wrap-around services Cassidy received, she is now enrolled in college and working full time.

This is just a small snapshot of what nondiscretionary federal dollars can do to help our nation's young people.

We need Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the nation's main federal law that sets standards and protections for state justice systems, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). We also need better tax reform, not the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which will primarily benefit those who need it least while adding to the burdens of our next generation.

ACT NOWBe heard. Please take a moment to contact your Members of Congress with our easy-to-use Action Alert, urging them to invest in young people.


Learn More:

To learn more about the JJDPA, check out the JJDPA Matters Action Center from the collaborative Act 4 Juvenile Justice Campaign (and powered by SparkAction).

To learn more about disparities in youth justice, the Sentencing Project has a powerful series of fact sheets, including:

Rachel Marshall is the federal policy counsel with the Campaign for Youth Justice. More on Rachel.

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