Current Campaigns

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Act 4 Juvenile Justice
Liz Ryan and Nancy Gannon Hornberger


In the next few weeks, Congress is poised to make the deepest cuts to federal juvenile justice funding in more than a decade.

These drastic cuts will result in the increased use of incarceration for youth, including placement of children in adult jails, and run counter to research that shows the public supports rehabilitation and treatment for youth.

The good news, if there is any, is that it's not too late. With your help, we can reverse this!


What's at Stake?

For more than 35 years, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) has provided critical federal funding to states to comply with a set of core requirements designed to protect children from the dangers of adult jails and lockups; keep children charged with status offenses out of locked custody; and address the disparate treatment of youth of color in the justice system.

  • JJDPA's Title II funding helps states comply with the core requirements and helps ensure that states have resources to build effective state systems.
  • Title V is the only federal program that provides delinquency prevention funding at the local level to reach youth at risk and help keep them out of the juvenile justice system.


In addition to these JJDPA programs, funding through the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant (JABG) program assists state efforts to effectively strengthen services and supports for court-involved youth, including alternatives to detention.



Facing Historic Cuts

The House and Senate have both proposed juvenile justice cuts that are the largest in more than a decade. (What does that mean? Jump to the historical federal funding chart).

If enacted, these proposed cuts will:

  • Undermine the implementation of the JJDPA core requirements, such as the Jail Removal provision that prohibits the placement of youth in adult jails and lockups. (Click here for a fact sheet on the dangers of placing youth in adult jails.)
  • Result in more youth incarcerated in adult jails -- costly and dangerous facilities where youth are placed at severe risk of suicide, physical and sexual abuse, recidivism, and a lifetime of disconnection from education and work;
  • Erode and jeopardize nationwide progress on juvenile justice improvements that have led to historic low rates in youth-offending across all U.S. states and territories; and
  • Eliminate support for cost-effective delinquency prevention programs and alternatives to incarceration, which increase public safety and decrease recidivism and public costs. For every $1 spent in prevention and community-based alternatives, taxpayers save up to $8 in criminal justice costs.

These cuts run counter to recent public opinion research (PDF) released on October 12, 2011, that shows that the public rejects placement of youth in adult jails and prisons and instead strongly favors:

  • Rehabilitation and treatment approaches, such as counseling, education, treatment, restitution and community service;
  • Requiring the juvenile justice system to reduce racial and ethnic disparities; and
  • Independent oversight to ensure youth are protected from abuse while in state or local custody.



How You Can Help

Working together, we can turn this around!  By taking action, you will be joining thousands of individuals and organizations nationwide as part of the Act 4 Juvenile Justice Campaign to protect children in the justice system.

Take Action Now!

(1) Contact your Members of Congress.

(2) Call your local media outlets and urge them to editorialize in opposition to these proposed cuts.



Please share this information with your networks. To stay updated on the Act 4 Juvenile Justice campaign, sign up for updates at





Tell the Senate: Restore Juvenile Justice Funding

The House passed Continuing Resolution (CR) proposes $191 million in cuts to juvenile justice funding in the Department of Justice.

Juvenile justice programs strengthen the nation's juvenile justice system, and support prevention and early intervention programs that make a critical difference for young people and their communities, and contribute to the prevention and reduction of youth crime and violence.  As the Senate considers the House passed Continuing Resolution, it is urgent that juvenile justice funding is restored to increase public safety, and ensure the protection of children from the dangers of adult jails, improve safety for youth in custody, and increase fairness in the justice system.

Contact your Senators to urge them to support investing in effective juvenile crime prevention programs and protect youth in the juvenile justice system.

For individuals:

Please consider signing the petition below:

For organizations:

Please consider sending a letter such as the one in the above petition to your Senators.


Reauthorize the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act!

The Campaign for Youth Justice and its allies throughout the country have launched the Act 4 Juvenile Justice campaign to reauthorize and strengthen the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Congress needs to hear how urgent it is to remove youth from adult jails and prisons!

Action Alert: Tell the Senate: Pass Juvenile Justice Reform Now!
To take action, click here

Action Alert: Tell the House: Pass Juvenile Justice Reform Now!
To take action, click here



Support the Family Justice Act!

In the last Congress, the Family Justice Act of 2010, H.R. 6361, was introduced on September 29, 2010 and referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.  We anticipate that the bill will soon be reintroduced in 2011.  The Family Justice Act will provide necessary support and funding to better engage families in the juvenile justice system. The successful rehabilitation of youth is dependent on stable family structures and sustained reintegration into the community, which is more likely to be successful when the juvenile justice system and families involved work together.

Action Alert: Support the Family Justice Act!
To take action, click here:


Demand A&E: Tell the Truth About “Scared Straight”

On January 13, 2011, A&E launched the “Beyond Scared Straight” program series earning it the highest ratings in the station’s history.  This is a devastating development as it promotes the spread of a noxious program.  “Scared Straight” programs were condemned years ago by numerous authoritative and credible researchers.  Additionally, "Scared Straight" programs violate the federal Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).  According to the Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), in its "Compliance Manual" for states, the policy says that, "Facilities must assure that no juvenile offender shall enter under public authority (i.e. while in the care, custody, or under the jurisdiction of law enforcement or the juvenile or criminal court, whichever is applicable) for any amount of time, into a secure setting or secure section of an adult jail, lockup or correctional facility as a disposition of an offense or as a means of modifying their behavior (e.g. Shock Incarceration or Scared Straight)."

There are serious, negative and life-threatening impacts on young people when they are subjected to “Scared Straight” programs.

Action Alert: Demand A&E: Tell the Truth About “Scared Straight”
To take action, click here




If you live in one of the states listed below, please check out how you can take action now! Don’t see a campaign action in your state? Check our “state contacts” listing to see if there is a group actively working on reducing the prosecution of youth in adult court.


The Connecticut Junvenile Justice Alliance (CTJJA) launched a campaign to end the practice of automatically prosecuting all 16 & 17 year olds as adults. On January 1, 2010 CT's new law went into effect to remove 16 year olds from adult court. Through the YES campaign, CTJJA is working to ensure that the new law stays on track and that the January 1, 2012 deadline to remove all 17 year olds from adult court is met!

Action Alert: Join the YES campaign!
To take action, click here


Baltimore youth, parents, families and advocates have launched a campaign, "Stop the Baltimore Youth Jail" to halt the state of Maryland from building a new jail for youth charged as adults, spending more than $100 million dollars! This proposed 180-230 bed jail is not needed, will not improve public safety outcomes, and will make it easier for the state to prosecute more youth in adult criminal court.


Action Alert: Stop the Baltimore Youth Jail
To take action, click here



Citizens for Juvenile Justice (CfJJ) is an independent, non-profit, statewide organization working exclusively to improve the juvenile justice system in Massachusetts. Massachusetts is one of only 13 states that set the age of criminal responsibility below 18, but CfJJ is working on changing that through its Justice for Kids campaign to raise the age.

Action Alert: Join the Justice for Kids Campaign
To take action, click here.

North Carolina


North Carolina is one of two states where youths ages 16 & 17 are automatically tried as adults. The North Carolina General Assembly established a Youth Accountability Task Force in 2009 to make recommendations on how to implement changes to NC's law by January 2011. The North Carolina Raise the Age Campaign is actively working to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 16 to 18.

Action Alert: Get Children out of the Adult System!
To take action, click here

Raise the Age! Call your Congressman, click here

Contact Legislators in North Carolina


The Don’t Throw Away the Key Campaign is working to reduce the number of kids in the adult criminal justice system and end the placement of kids in adult jails in Virginia.

Action Alert: Don’t Throw Away the Key!
To take action, click here


The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families has launched “Justice for Wisconsin Youth” a statewide campaign with the initial goal of returning 17 year olds to the juvenile justice system.

Action Alert: Sign onto Justice for Wisconsin Youth!
To take action, click here