It costs about $35,000 to incarcerate a juvenile. It takes just $7,000 a year to educate one.
Juveniles can be tried as adults in all 50 states, and are vulnerable to adult punishments. They may also be remanded to adult prisons.
The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child states that crimes committed by a juvenile should not result in execution or life in prison without parole. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute people for crimes they committed as children. As a consequence, a number of young people were released from death row into the general prison population. Five other countries execute people for juvenile offenses: Iran, Yemen, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.
The Twenty-Third General Synod stated, "We affirm the right of juveniles to an equitable system of justice that respects the life and promise of our youth."
BIG NEWS: Reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act introduced in Congress
Recently, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced legislation, S.1169, to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which was created in 1974 and has not been updated since 2002.
The legislation would make improvements to the law, including:
- incorporating recent research into adolescent behavior and brain research,
- requiring that the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) identify best practices to serve and protect at-risk youth,
- phasing out remaining circumstances when youth can be detained for status offenses (offenses which would not be a crime if committed by an adult),
- removing youth charged in adult court from placement in adult jails.
The JJDPA is the only federal law that sets national standards for the treatment of youth involved in juvenile justice systems. In the 40 years since it was first enacted into law, the JJDPA has enabled significant improvements to juvenile justice, including reducing youth crime rates and supporting many states in creating fairer approaches that help youth stay connected to their communities and get back on track.
In 2001 the 23rd General Synod of the United Church of Christ affirmed advocacy for fair and appropriate treatment of youth, especially as they are involved with or at risk for involvement in the criminal justice system.
Resources on the JJDPA & the New Senate Bill