WASHINGTON – Congress reauthorized a major juvenile-justice bill last week for the first time since 2002, culminating a lengthy bipartisan effort to provide more federal oversight of how young people are treated in their first interactions with the criminal justice system.
Republican U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis had teamed up with U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat, to push the legislation, which provides rehabilitation, retraining and second chances to young first-time offenders. States receive a grant in exchange for complying with standards aimed at protecting juvenile offenders, particularly vulnerable groups such as those who are pregnant or have survived human trafficking. Judges must consider whether it’s “in the interest of justice” to hold juveniles awaiting trial in adult detention centers.
“For decades, our nation’s juvenile justice system struggled to function under antiquated methods that fail our most at-risk kids and perpetrate a cycle of incarceration,” said Lewis, who is leaving Congress after one term, in a statement on Thursday.
He added: “Through bipartisan efforts, we crafted meaningful reforms designed to prioritize effective strategies, improve public safety, increase efficiencies and help give troubled kids a second chance to become productive citizens.”
The measure awaits final approval by President Donald Trump before becoming law.