A Senate bill designed for a juvenile justice system overhaul has passed with ease with a voice vote. This bill will also make changes in the way the juvenile justice system deals with the education of children in the system.
The bill called the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act will mostly put a stop to children being sent to juvenile detention centers for skipping school and other status offenses in states that receive formula grants from the federal government. A court order requiring a child regularly attend school would be an exception.
Skipping school is not the only thing the bill deals with. The bill also aims to make certain children get credited for academic work they complete while confined to juvenile justice center and their educational records are retained. Screening children for mental health issues and ensuring appropriate treatment will have more emphasis.
The main authors of this bill are Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). The next step is for the Senators to meet with Congressmen from the House to work out a final bill that both chambers of Congress can agree on. The House of Representatives had already passed their own version earlier in the year.
The House version of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act was authored by Representatives Bobby Scott (D-Va) and Jason Lewis (R-Minn). The aim of both bills is to help keep children from falling behind in school even when incarcerated in a juvenile detention center. They also create new requirements of accountability in the system that will help keep taxpayer funds from being wasted.
The legislation from both chambers is intended to update and make changes to the original federal juvenile justice law passed in 1974. The last time reauthorization legislation was passed was in 2002.
According to the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, the bill in the House had the goal of eventually completely eliminating the practice of sending children through the juvenile justice system for skipping school while the Senate bill would still permit it under some circumstances. It remains to be seen just what the final bill will be on this issue.
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