In bad news for both young criminals and the American judicial system, federal funding for state and local juvenile justice programs may soon see drastic cuts, according to an investigation by The Crime Report.
Sources say that the House Committee that distributes funding to the Justice Department has proposed cutting the amount of cash it provides for juvenile justice programs from $424 million to $209 million in the next fiscal year, which starts at the beginning of October.
These cuts are just a small portion of the massive reductions in so-called discretionary spending by the Republican-controlled Congress. And these reductions come on the heels of a decade of decreased spending.
According to sources, federal money targeting juvenile crime has already fallen more than 50 percent to its lowest level in more than ten years and funding continues to take a dramatic dive.
If states continue to lose federal funding for their juvenile programs, they may no longer be able to comply with an important 1974 juvenile justice statute, which requires states to separate juveniles and adults in jail and to keep minor offenders out of state custody.
In response to states’ need to comply with this important criminal law, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice has asked Congress to set aside $80 million in “formula grants” to help states keep juvenile defendants separate from the adult jail population.
The House, however, is only willing to provide $33 million for these programs, and some observers speculate that states may simply refuse all federal funding, which would allow them to skirt federal regulations.
This solution, though, could have a severe impact on juveniles in custody, as many of them may be placed in general jail populations, where children are much more vulnerable to abuse.
Fortunately, the news is not all bad. Sources say the Senate is much more supportive of keeping funding for juvenile justice programs, and is not likely to agree to the House’s terms.
A recent press release from Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who controls the purse strings for the Justice Department on the Senate side, pledged $278 million for juvenile programs.
While this number still represents a significant drop from funding in the past, it would still be much more substantial than the relatively paltry sum being offered by the House.
The final funding amount will likely fall somewhere between the House and Senate estimates, but sources expect the funding to end up closer to the Senate’s figure.