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House Lawmakers Introduce JJDPA Reauthorization

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WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced long-awaited legislation today that would strengthen the key federal law protecting youth in the juvenile justice system.

The Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act (HR 5963) aims to help local and state officials better address the needs of youth by preventing their involvement with the juvenile system, protecting them in custody and helping them transition back into the community.

The provisions are part of an overall proposed reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency and Prevention Act. The law sets the core requirements for the treatment of juveniles that states must follow to receive federal funding.

“At the federal level, we must continue to incentivize a focus on evidence-based prevention and intervention initiatives which reduce delinquency and save money. Making sure we get juveniles in the system or at risk of delinquency off the wrong track and back in school on the way to college or a career is one of the most common sense, cost-effective actions we can take to improve our communities,” said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, ranking member of the House Education and Workforce Committee and a lead sponsor of the bill, in a news release.

Advocates welcomed the bill and what it could mean for juvenile justice reform on Capitol Hill. While Senate lawmakers introduced bipartisan JJDPA reauthorization legislation last year, the House had yet to do the same.

“It’s a solid, strong bill. Primarily we’re happy that the House has turned its attention to the JJDPA and that they’ve done so in a bipartisan way,” said Marie Williams, executive director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

And the bill could boost a bipartisan Senate JJDPA reauthorization bill (S 1169) that stalled earlier this year.

Scott introduced the bill with lead co-sponsor Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida. Other original sponsors of the bill are Education and Workforce Chairman John Kline, R-Minnesota, and Reps. Susan Davis, D-California, Earl L. “Buddy” Carter, R-Georgia, and Frederica Wilson, D-Florida.

“Many children are born into circumstances out of their control and believe the only path forward is one of crime or delinquency,” Curbelo said in a news release. “The purpose of this legislation is to help those children understand there is a better path forward and success is within their reach.”

The committee plans to consider the legislation on Wednesday.

The JJDPA has not been updated in nearly 15 years, a time of significant changes in the juvenile justice field that’s yielded new best practices that reformers say need to be incorporated into the law.

The bill includes provisions that would:

  • eliminate a loophole that allows youth to be detained for status offenses, behaviors such as running away or truancy that are only considered an offense because of a youth’s age;
  • strengthen requirements that juveniles be kept separate from adults in facilities; and
  • provide greater flexibility in prevention grant programs.

“I think this is a strong signal to the Senate that the House is also prioritizing it,” said Marcy Mistrett, chief executive officer of the Campaign for Youth Justice.

Even if a JJDPA reauthorization is not finished by the end of the year, the attention is important, the bill’s supporters said.

“The momentum around it in this Congress would certainly not hurt,” Williams said.

One significant difference between the House and Senate bills is the structure of the phase-out of what’s called the “valid court order” exemption for status offenders. While JJDPA prohibits the detention of status offenders, they may be detained if a judge issues a valid court order.

Under the Senate bill, a three-year phase-out would be followed by one year when states could ask for a hardship exemption. The House bill would allow states to ask for the exemption beyond the one-year mark.

“We would have hoped the House version would recognize — especially given the emphasis on evidence in the bill — that confining status offenders is not evidence-based,” Williams said.

The Senate bill had stalled because Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, objected to ending the loophole, meaning the bill could not pass under a fast-track procedure.

Gun Rights, Gun Control and a Local Push to Tax Guns and Their Ammo

Ambitious and certain to draw criticism, President Barack Obama’s plan to rid the nation of the most powerful weapons on the market and attempt to arrest mass and everyday shootings was expected by Congress Wednesday, marking a sharp turn in a decades-long fight to curb America’s gun violence.

As the debate was playing out in Washington, several local and national leaders gathered at the University of Chicago Tuesday evening to discuss guns and policy, with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose city holds the dubious “murder capital” title, among the group and pushing sweeping gun control legislation that cracks down on assault weapons. Also on the panel was Democratic political consultant David Axelrod, who this week said that the National Rifle Association’s recent assertion that Congress would not enact the sort of change that Obama and others were pressing, was off base. In fact, he said, real legislation will squeeze through the legislative process and signal real change in the nation’s laws and gun dialogue. Also in attendance was the head of the University of Chicago CrimeLab, who noted that while the United States has managed to improve its count of more common crime – property theft, etc. – we are dubiously at the top in terms of violence.

While this played out, the NRA issued statements condemning the actions of New York lawmakers over a sweeping move late Monday-early Tuesday to ban assault and other high-powered weapons while also addressing the difficult, more open issue of mental illness. This comes after media reports over the past week showing that mental illness is, seemingly, not often considered by gun dealers when selling weapons in this nation.

So even as Washington remains center stage this week in the fight to curb gun violence, increase purchase-point background checks, better mind the mental health of buyers and put tighter limits on the legal gun market - a rights and safety battle that has gone on for decades but whose profile was fast raised by last month’s Newtown school massacre – the ramifications were fast cascading through the country.

Here, in Illinois – and, more narrowly, high-crime Cook County and Chicago – most of the political bigs have joined in a loud call to end the bloodshed that claimed upwards of 500 lives last year. In fact, Cook County, even before the Connecticut shooting rampage that killed 20 children and six school employees at Sandy Hook Elementary, as well as the gunman and his mother, was on to a somewhat different and unique idea: Tax bullets and filter that money into hospitals to care for those wounded by gunfire. The slayings also counted some 100 minors among the victims – and many teenagers are also counted among the suspects or those arrested in the slayings.

Also in Illinois, the battle over concealed-carry permits or licenses has restarted after a state ban was recently declared unconstitutional. Before Illinois lifted the ban, 49 states had already allowed people to carry firearms with a permit.

According to Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, the decision to allow people to carry concealed weapons would actually decrease violence, noting most mass shootings such as the Newtown shooting and the theater shooting in Aurora, CO earlier last year occurred in gun-free zones, where citizens were not allowed to have guns.

“So these gun-free zones become magnets for thugs and crazy people to attack other people because they know they can’t defend themselves,” Pearson said.

Although it is too early to see the impact of the lift, Illinois’ youth is deeply affected by firearms and, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, the state ranks among the top 10 in per capita gun-related homicide rates among children and teens.

And, as with other cities and states, policymakers here – as well as academics, editorialists, grassroots organizations and established institutions – Newtown was the impetus for upping the volume and speed of the political and everyday conversation on guns.

But while big names like Emanuel and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, also a Democrat, drew much of the attention here – there is more focus growing up around Preckwinkle’s gun and bullet taxes. Preckwinkle, who also wants to ban assault weapons and joins Emanuel and Quinn at events on the issue, has been pushing twin taxes since October. The tax on gun purchases has passed and new restrictions take effect in April, with a planned $25 tax on firearm purchases to help pay for the sharp costs of public health and public safety. With the money raised, the county plans to shift $2 million toward violence prevention, intervention and reduction.

What remains an open question is whether the other proposal – to tax bullets and ammunition for these guns – will also get the nod and take effect to offset medical costs even more.

According to Cook County spokesman Owen Kilmer, the expected funds derived from the gun tax will primarily go to non-profit organizations that have known experience in violence prevention. At least $100,000 of the total will go towards education, enforcement, and straw purchases, or firearms purchased legally but then used for criminal activity.

Also, a seven-member advisory board at the county level will not only oversee the $2 million but also seek out effective models of gun control, and study the possible addition of a youth component.

But violence has always been a problem in Chicago with 2,051 shootings occurring in 2011 and about 700 more last year.

Chicago and Cook County residents met news of the tax and violence prevention pushes with as much skepticism as hope.

Those interviewed for the story, and polled by local media, apparently see the problem as less to do with the availability of guns, and more to do with youth falling through the cracks in the justice and child welfare systems, with broken families that, perhaps unintentionally, spin youth into the open arms of gangs through neglect, violence, and the chaos of troubled households.

With the tax still a couple of months off, there is no good way go gauge it’s potential. Yet, there are those like Briceson William, 28, a graduate of Austin High School on Chicago’s troubled West Side, who said the real problem lies with unemployment, deep poverty, poorly planned housing – and law enforcement, who, according to some crime and academic studies, are quick to throw minors in jail, crippling their opportunity to earn a decent living.

Mark Iris, a professor of political science at Northwestern University, attributes the high number of youth in jail to zero-tolerance policies here and elsewhere in the nation that criminalize ordinary classroom misbehavior. Taken with the high number of police in schools after the high-crime 1980s and 1990s – an issue given greater profile after Newtown – the zero-tolerance policies have, according to many of the same studies, created an atmosphere in schools where police interactions and quick responses to students and disciplinary problems have raised the number of police-juvenile interactions and, consequently, trips to police stations, courts, and even juvenile detention.

In fact, juvenile detention in Chicago has been a topic for debate. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has said the high rate of incarceration of minors should be wholly eliminated, that juvenile detention under her watch should be “blown up,” and, ultimately, that “we shouldn’t have a jail for kids. Period.”

According to the Chicago Youth Justice Data Project, in 2009 alone, the number of youth detained in Cook County juvenile detention centers was 5,608 – and roughly 84 percent of that population was African American, 12 percent Hispanic and 3 percent white. Overall population statistics for Chicago, which is in Cook County, show a split of about one-third black, one-third Hispanic and one-third white.

Not only is juvenile detention heavily skewed towards the black population today, but go back 10 years to a 2002 study by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, which showed that, very often, youth in solitary confinement do not receive any kind of educational training. Without such training, black and other minority youth are, by definition, ill-equipped to make a decent living once released and actually contribute to society instead of dragging it down with the high medical costs associated with violence, the steep costs of incarceration and courts and the high number of police. Studies show that turning schools into a sort of “police state,” as some legislators at the local and national level have put it, actually retards progress by halting a minor’s potential before it has a chance to be realized.

For example, once a youth enters the juvenile system – especially through the justice side but also through agencies like the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services or the county’s Public Guardian’s office – and have their records marred with a felony, the chances of them earning a job quickly diminish. Additionally, without proper education, the window of opportunity gets smaller.

“[When] in a juvenile center of some sort, or juvenile detention setting, it’s certainly going to disrupt [the youth’s] school progress, and realistically for many of these youths, they would have been at risk, [in a] disadvantaged position anyway,” Iris said.

“We can put the guns down if we get money, jobs,” William said. “[The government] gives us nothing to do. We’re sitting around twiddling our fingers all day long with nothing to do, looking at each other, walking down the street daily. I mean, something’s bound to happen.”

Angela Reavers, 36, an accountant from the South Side of Chicago, agreed that violence spins from a vicious cycle – one that often begins with the justice system or the child welfare system. And once a child is caught up in that system, the crossover between child welfare and justice is frequent and it becomes increasingly difficult to break free to a kind of normal life.

For her part, Reavers said, many times when young men and women are released from jail, they aren’t rehabilitated or given the proper tools to find a job. According to a 2006 report released by the Justice Policy Institute, the system is weighted heavily against blacks and Hispanics as white youth tend to have better access to programs and services.

Locked into this cycle, they many times ask themselves, “What do I do to live, to eat?” and in search of money, head out to the streets to find a way to provide for themselves. According to William, this plight was not only his, but many other’s as well.

After winning back his freedom, William said he has had to “hustle,” or sell whatever items he can find: clothes, socks, and shoes. “I gotta eat,” he said.

And so the lure of community in gangs becomes all the more appealing. Reavers said much of the violence and feeling of separation that feeds the gang network stems from a lack of a father figure. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 report, 51.2 percent of African American children in one-parent families lived with their mothers, whereas 3.5 percent of children in single-parent families lived with their fathers.

“Young men go to gangs because their fathers are not at home,” said Reavers, explaining the youth’s need for a sense of family. “And to a certain extent, gangs care; that’s what [youth] are looking for.”

But despite his conviction that Chicago has failed its youth and his belief that gun violence will only increase, William acknowledges that improvements have been made to better the lives of the neighborhood’s youth.

“I see they’re starting to [do] a lot of after school programs and stuff like that,” William said. “That’s good.”

Just across the street from where William and his friends spent the afternoon, East Garfield’s Richard T. Crane Technical Preparatory High School offers after-school work-study programs for its students to learn basic job-finding skills. Students like Marcus Hallam, 18, a senior, leave class early in order to attend a program where students are taught skills such as interviewing techniques. He is preparing to apply to colleges and possibly seek a sports scholarship.

Despite the acceleration of laws and talk and promises after such a violent year in Chicago, and the Sandy Hook tragedy, finding a solution to gun violence remains daunting. Small steps might be the answer, according to some observers, and Cook County’s proposals to tax weapons to raise funds for uninsured victims of shootings, which make up about 70 percent of victims, could prove a concrete start.

But, this too was met with some hesitancy, as William said he sees no clear purpose to the tax. “People [are] still going to get shot. [The politicians] [are] only taxing them for money [purposes], for their purpose, for their pockets. They aren’t taxing them for our pockets, [there isn’t any] money coming out here for us. The politicians in Illinois are untruthful, can’t be trusted.”

What many say is most important is that violence – chiefly that committed with firearms – needs to be stopped for upcoming generations. Termaine Johnson, 16, is a sophomore at Crane Tech. While he sees the county’s tax push as a “nice” way to raise revenues for gunshot victims, ultimately what he wants is an end to the violence that so bloodies Chicago and hurts the reputation of a city that is otherwise so prominent in business and culture.

“People…dying left and right…for nothing,” he said. “I just wish it could stop.”

This story appears in The Chicago Bureau. Bureau Editor Eric Ferkenhoff contributed to this story.

Photo by Natalie Krebs. 

School Discipline Reform Groups Question Proposals for Armed Security

Initiatives emerging from shootings may conflict with efforts to reduce police involvement in school discipline

A student from San Pedro High School in the Los Angeles area is detained for truancy in 2010 by Los Angeles city officers. Photo by Brad Graverson/Torrance Daily Breeze.

As the White House considers proposals to allocate federal money for armed guards in schools, prominent school-discipline reform groups have issued a report denouncing the idea as a misguided reaction to the Newtown school shooting.

“Placing more police in schools has significant and harmful unintended consequences for young people that must be considered before agreeing to any proposal that would increase the presence of law enforcement in schools,”says an issue brief released Friday by the Advancement Project, Dignity in Schools and other organizations.

The Advancement Project, founded in 1999, has offices in Washington D.C. and California, and has worked with school districts and states to adopt alternatives to school suspensions and expulsions. Dignity in Schools is also devoted to working with school districts, advocating fewer school suspensions and less involvement of law enforcement in school discipline.

The groups called on the White House and Congress, before they act, to consider how the school-discipline climate changed after more police were introduced to schools in response to the Columbine school shootings nearly 15 years ago in Colorado.

“We have seen what happens when [schools] ramp up police presence and other security measures in response to a shooting or other violent act. In Colorado, it resulted in more students getting arrested for minor misbehaviors, more students being pushed out of school, and a declining sense of safety in schools,” the brief says.

“These unintended consequences,” the report continues, “are persistent and pervasive – despite efforts by parents, students, and the school district, the high arrest rates and racial disparities that resulted from increased police presence and zero tolerance policies still exist.”

Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading a new White House effort on gun control and school safety, is reportedly interested in the idea of allocating federal money to schools that wish to have armed guard protection, according to a recent report by the Washington Post.

The idea is being championed by one of Congress’ most ardent liberals, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who told the Post that Biden is “very, very interested” in a plan she presented to finance the deployment of police officers at schools.

“I don’t see why anyone should object to it, left or right,” Boxer told the Post. “It’s an area where I think I can find common ground with my colleagues on all sides.”

Biden has met with a number of different groups this week in his role as leader of the post-Newtown effort —among them the National Rifle Association.

The NRA, under scrutiny for its intense efforts to preserve gun-ownership liberties, has suggested that schools consider training and arming teachers or other appointed staff inside schools. The NRA has offered to pay for and provide training.

"If we truly cherish our kids more than our money or our celebrities, we must give them the greatest level of protection possible and the security that is only available with a properly trained — armed — good guy," NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said at a press conference explaining the group’s recommendations.

LaPierre also urged Congress to appropriate “whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school.”

But in its Friday brief, the Advancement Project, whose ideas have gained traction recently in Washington, reacted with dismay to both the NRA and Boxer’s recommendations.

Following the Newtown killings, Boxer also proposed placing National Guard in schools.

“We object to using the limited resources of the federal government to expand the presence of police in schools,” the Advancement Project brief says. “More specifically, we oppose the legislation offered late last Congress by Senator Barbara Boxer to facilitate the installation of National Guard troops in U.S. schools. We cannot support any such actions that have not been shown to make schools safer and instead can lead to terrifying, fatal mistakes.”

The Advancement Project report cites specific examples of students ticketed or arrested for minor infractions in various cities with a beefed-up school police presence, including Denver, Colo., New York City and Los Angeles, as reported by the Center for Public Integrity in a series of recent stories recently.

In Denver, where parent-led reforms are now aiming to reverse harsh discipline practices, schools saw a 71 percent jump in referrals of students to police or courts between 2000 and 2004. Most referrals, the brief notes, were for minor infractions such as using obscenities, disruptive appearance and destruction of non-school property.

“Serious conduct, like carrying a dangerous weapon to school, accounted for only 7% of the referrals,” the report says.

The Obama Administration has noticed these patterns, the report also says, and has taken action to encourage or require schools to adopt alternatives to suspensions and involvement of law enforcement in discipline matters.

On Dec. 12, Advancement Project co-director Judith Browne Dianis testified at the first congressional hearing on the so-called school-to-prison pipeline. That’s a term coined by groups arguing that the involvement of police in what should be school disciplinary matters is putting some students, especially  low-income minorities, on a path to more serious trouble.

This was first reported by the Center for Public Integrity.

Photo by  Brad Graverson/Torrance Daily Breeze.

Senate Bill to Extend Current Student Loan Interest Rates Defeated

Tuesday, Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked a bill backed by Democrats that would have kept interest rates for certain federal student loans from doubling this July.

By a 52-45 majority, GOP senators effectively killed the proposal – entitled the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012, it marking this Congress’ 21st successful filibuster of a Democratic-sponsored bill, according to The New York Times. If an extension of current federally-subsidized student loan rates does not occur, loan rates for undergraduate students are expected to jump from 3.4 percent to 6.8 later this summer.

According to recent reports, American students took out almost twice the value of student loans in 2011 - estimated at about $112 billion – than they did a decade ago. In 2010, student loan debt totaled approximately $1 trillion, eclipsing credit card debt as the nation’s second largest form of debt behind mortgages, USA Today reported.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and given White House backing, would have paid for the interest rate extension via higher payroll taxes and the elimination of certain tax benefits for some private companies. Republicans are currently pushing for an alternative extension bill proposed by Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, which would pay for the interest extension by making cuts to the preventative health care fund – a bill that President Obama has said he would veto if it passed in the Senate, The Washington Post reports.

According to The Boston Herald, the cost of keeping interest rates at their current levels is estimated at approximately $6 billion.

Photo by Collegeview.com

Supreme Court Prepares to Hear Health Care Reform Case, Young People Take to the Web

For three days next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that will determine the fate of the health care reform law signed by President Obama two years ago.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act introduced a number of changes to how the health insurance industry operates and would cover more than 30 million uninsured Americans. Immediate changes include allowing adult children to remain on their parents’ insurance until they turn 27 as well as the elimination of yearly and lifetime coverage caps. More changes will be rolled out slowly until 2014, when the full law takes effect.

But opponents argue one provision in particular is unconstitutional — the so-called individual mandate that takes effect in 2014 and requires most Americans to purchase health insurance or else face heavy fines. They say, by mandating that consumers enter the marketplace and purchase insurance, the law violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution that regulates interstate economic activity. The federal government can’t force you to buy something, even health insurance, they say.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments in a lawsuit filed in Florida by 26 states and a ruling is expected by June. If the high court finds the individual mandate unconstitutional, experts say it is unclear whether the entire law could be struck down as a consequence or if the individual mandate could be severed from the law, leaving the rest intact.

Studies by the Pew Research Center (found here and here) show that young adults under 30, those hit hardest by the economic downturn and underemployment—a group Pew calls “Millenials”—may stand to gain the most if the law is upheld. But, they found, Millenials are also apathetic about reform, more so than other age groups.

Pew’s research says 33 percent of young adults under 30 do not have health insurance, a number that could jump if the law is struck down, causing many 20-somethings to be dropped from their parents’ insurance. However in 2010, just before passage of the health care reform bill, less than half of Millenials, 47 percent, had a favorable view of the changes proposed by Congress. And yet, Millenials also reported having little knowledge of the bill. Only 22 percent had heard “a lot” about the legislation.

Support may have been weak because Millenials, according to Pew, did not believe health care reform would benefit them. Few young adults said they thought health care would improve because of the legislation.

With the Supreme Court set to take up the law, JJIE wanted to know where the Millenials, a generation struggling to find their way and achieve financial independence, stood today. Are they hopeful the law would be upheld? Or do they believe the law isn’t helping them? But mostly, do they even care at all?

In fact, passionate young voices may be heard from both sides of the issue, but weighing heavily on them all is the ailing economy and the dismal job market for young adults and recent college graduates.

The College Republican National Committee (CRNC) says the U.S. simply cannot afford the health care reform bill.

"Not only does it add another trillion [dollar] entitlement to a cash strapped nation but it takes money directly out of the wallets of young adults," the CRNC writes on its website.

Additionally, the website says, because health care for Americans aged 60-64 costs four to five times more than care for young adults, a mandate meant to keep insurance premiums affordable for older Americans will shift the cost to younger Americans.

"In other words, young adults are being forced to overpay for insurance," the CRNC website says.

In response to a question by a local television journalist posted on Twitter, one state chapter of the College Republicans called for repeal.

"Obamacare [the Affordable Care Act] threatens our generations [sic] very chance at a prosperous future. Must be repealed," the Arkansas College Republicans posted to Twitter Thursday.

Non-partisan advocacy group Young Invincibles argues health care reform, because of the individual mandate requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance, will actually keep premiums low for everyone as by spreading the risk over the entire population.

But at the same time, the group says, health care reform will make health insurance affordable for young adults.

The law "will provide coverage to millions of uninsured and underinsured young adults," the group says, by giving tax credits to those who earn less than $43,000 a year, a category it says includes more than 75 percent of Americans aged 19-29. Additionally, Young Invincibles says, an expansion to Medicaid will allow young adults earning less than $14,000 per year to qualify, insuring a further 8 million young adults.

It is also, "a matter of personal responsibility," the group says.

"Those who don't purchase insurance end up visiting emergency rooms without the ability to afford care, pushing the cost of their treatment on everyone else," the organization writes on its website.

The Affordable Care Act offers another avenue to coverage for young adults by allowing parents to keep their children on their insurance until they turn 26, Young Invincibles says, a move that could cover an additional 1.2 million young adults. Many more, they say, will be allowed to supplement inadequate coverage with their parents' insurance.

Today, the Internet and social media are the first places many young adults go to take part in political debates and the controversy around health care reform is no different. Here's a sampling of the conversations on Twitter, where young adults are writing about health care reform, the upcoming Supreme Court case and the Massachusetts health care law that is very similar to the federal Affordable Care Act.

Rachel Ermer ‏ @RachelErmer:

"@GOPconference#healthreform isn't working if more people are#uninsured but in reality we need it more"

Jessica Jacobs ‏ @jess_jacobs:

"Real March Madness -- the epic #SCOTUS Battle: Federalism VS#HealthReform"

dodgerdog64 ‏ @dodgerdog64:

"Ok THIS is perfect! Ind. mandate works! RT @HCAN: WaPo: Study finds Romneycare making Mass. healthier"

Sara Schapiro ‏ @sschappy:

"Wow. Must read. @BarackObama's Affordable Care Act is saving ppl's lives: http://www.barackobama.com/news/entry/letter-of-the-weekmarch-12th-2012 #healthreform #Obama2012"

Not all young people are discussing the issue in 140 characters, however. YouTube user stateofdaniel put together this video in November calling for Justice Elena Kagen to recuse herself from the case. Kagen was an attorney in the Obama White House during the negotiations that lead to the passage of the bill.

A Look at Youth-Related Spending in Obama’s 2013 Budget

This story originally appeared on YouthToday.

President Barack Obama unveiled his 2013 budget proposal today, which calls for $3.8 trillion in spending and projects a $901 billion deficit for the year. It was quickly met with resistance from Republican leadership.

“The President’s budget falls exceptionally short in many critical areas – including a lack of any substantive proposal for mandatory and entitlement spending reform,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), in a statement issued this morning.

Rogers promised to “go line by line through the President’s budget, prioritize programs, and make decisions on the appropriate investment of discretionary funds.”

Juvenile Justice

The president would fund the Office of Justice Programs at $1.7 billion in 2013, down from $2.7 billion in 2011 and $2 billion in 2012. The budget would increase spending on the juvenile justice and delinquency prevention programs at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, a division of OJP.

Formula grants to states (Title II): $70 million
2012 appropriation: $40 million

Delinquency prevention grants: $40 million
2012 appropriation: $20 million

Block grants to states (JABG): $30 million
2012 appropriation: $30 million

Mentoring programs: $58 million
2012 appropriation: $78 million

Community-Based Violence Prevention: $25 million
2012 appropriation: $8 million

Other notable items from the Department of Justice proposal:

-A $20 million “evidence-based competitive demonstration program” for juvenile justice reform. This, of course, is the concept that the administration proposed for nearly all juvenile justice funding in 2012.

-Moving the Missing and Exploited Children program funding ($67 million proposed) from OJJDP into the Crime Victims Fund.

-There is $80 million included for the Second Chance Act, which aims to assist states with reentry services for adult and juvenile offenders. There is $20 million set aside within that proposal for “Pay for Success” projects, which is the administration’s term for social impact bonds.

-Obama does not include spending for OJJDP’s Victims of Child Abuse program, or for the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, but does include $23 million for the Defending Childhoodinitiative, created by Attorney General Eric Holder to address the trauma experienced by children who are exposed directly or indirectly to violence.

Education and Labor

The big change for 2013 is Obama’s proposed Community College Initiative, an $8 billion venture that would be carried out jointly by the Department of Education and Labor. This is the project referred to earlier this month in the State of the Union, which is aimed at helping community colleges develop worker-training programs for nearby companies with jobs they cannot fill because the potential employee pool lacks critical skills.

The Education budget also proposes a freeze on interest rates for federal Stafford Loans. The rate is scheduled to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent in July. Obama includes a long-term plan to expand the Perkins Loan program from $1 billion to $8 billion, raising the interest rate on those loans from 5 percent to 6.8 percent and restructuring the program to prevent colleges and universities from increasing tuition costs.

Obama includes $824.4 million for Department of Labor youth activities under the Workforce Investment Act, $80 million for YouthBuild programs, and another $80 million for reintegration of ex-offenders, which is down from $109 million in 2011. The budget would fund the Workforce Innovation Fund at $50 million, down from $125 million in 2012.

Other notable items from the Department of Education:

-$850 million for Race to the Top and $100 million for Promise Neighborhoods in the Education budget.

-Level funding of $1.15 billion for after-school programs through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

-The budget would maintain the maximum Pell Grant award at $4,860, but raise it to $5,635 for the 2014-2015 school years.

Health and Family Services

The president’s budget for HHS does not reflect many changes to funding for the Administration for Children and Families, which oversees the majority of family, foster care and adoption services. It does propose $350 million for the Community Services Block Grant, which was funded at $677 million in 2012, but this is not the first budget proposal in which Obama has expressed an interest in cutting back the program.

The expansion of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs was included in the controversial Affordable Care Act, and is slated for an increase from $350 million this year to $400 million in 2013.

The Department of Agriculture budget includes $19.7 billion for Child Nutrition Programs, which is $1.5 billion over the 2012 appropriation. The Women, Infants & Children Program would receive $7 billion, a $400 million increase from 2012.

The Agriculture budget also includes an increase from $264 million to $325 million for theAgriculture and Food Research Initiative, which offers competitive grants for number of potential subjects, including childhood obesity.

Other notable items:

-Within the level-funding proposal of $2.3 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the president includes $1 million for toll-free hotline and website that parents can use to access local child care services.

-Funds Head Start at $8.1 billion, slightly more than it received in 2012 and significantly more than Obama has requested in the past. The proposal also “supports the implementation of new regulations to strengthen Head Start by requiring low-performing grantees to compete for continued funding,” a process that is actually already underway.

-In the endnotes of the HHS budget appendix, there is mention of a program to reduce pregnancy among youth in foster care. It would consist of competitive grants or contracts, made available in September of 2013, and would be funded by the certain unspent funds from previous fiscal years.

-Within the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, there is $20 million proposed for a drug prevention media program and $88.6 million for the Drug-Free Communities Support Program, which provides small grants to seed local community drug-free coalitions.

Service Learning

Obama proposes $760.5 million for the Corporation for National and Community Service. This includes more or less level funding for AmeriCorps grants ($345 million), the trust that pays out AmeriCorps education stipends ($208.7 million), and the National Civilian Community Corps ($30.1 million).

The budget includes $53.2 million for the Social Innovation Fund. It does not address CNCS’ Foster Grandparents program, which was appropriated about $110 million by Congress in 2011 and 2012.

To see federal spending figures on youth services in 2012, click here. To access the agency-level details for the president's 2013 budget, click here.

Photo by Flickr | rachaelvoorhees

House Approps May Gut Spending on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act

U.S. House of RepresentativesThe House subcommittee that oversees Justice Department funding produced an appropriations bill this week that would slash activities authorized by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act in 2012.

The draft bill, marked up by the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and State (CJS), would not fund demonstration grants, Juvenile Accountability Block Grants (JABG) or Title V Local Delinquency Prevention Grants. In 2010, the last year Congress actually passed an appropriations package, those three streams totaled $231 million.

The bill would also drop state formula grants - given to states on the condition that they adhere to basic standards in regard to the detainment of juveniles, and address racial disparities in the system - from $75 million in 2010 to $40 million.

The full appropriations committee will vote on the proposed funding levels for Justice on Wednesday, July 13, according to a memo published by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice on its website.

Many in the juvenile justice field have been unhappy with the way that the funding streams now on the chopping block were spent. Title V grants were intended to be given to state advisory groups to develop efforts to prevent juvenile crime; in recent years they were almost entirely allocated by Congress to enforcement of underage drinking laws, tribal areas and gang intervention.

Demonstration grants, which once funded coordinated efforts at research and pilot testing of juvenile justice strategies, became an earmark trough for congressmen.

President Barack Obama originally proposed in his 2012 budget to eliminate formula and JABG funding in favor of a Race to the Top-style incentive grant program, where conforming to basic standards was only a state’s ticket into the competition for big system improvement grants.

After a steady stream of criticism from advocates, the administration revised its budget proposal with most of the grants intact with only a small carve-out for its incentive grant concept.

The CJS subcommittee, which is chaired by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), does not propose to use savings from the formula grants or JABG for a new incentive program.

The subcommittee proposes $83 million for mentoring activities, which is $17 million less than 2010 appropriations.

Senate Passes Bill Stripping Confirmation Requirement for Juvenile Justice Positions

This article originally appeared on YouthToday.org.

The Senate passed by a 79-20 margin today the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011, which would remove the Senate confirmation requirement for hundreds of executive branch positions, including two of the top federal jobs related to child welfare and juvenile justice.

S. 679 was never referred out of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The bill was introduced in late March by a bipartisan group of senators and blessed with the support of both Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Chief among the youth-related positions affected by the bill are Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), an agency within the Office of Justice Programs at the Department of Justice, and Commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), which is part of the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The ACYF job is currently held by Bryan Samuels. Samuels led Chicago’s child welfare system before becoming a top aide to Education Secretary Arne Duncan when he was CEO of Chicago Public Schools. ACYF manages the Children’s Bureau, which provides federal funding to states for foster care services and also measures the performance of state child welfare services.

The Obama administration has yet to nominate a person to serve as OJJDP administrator; the office is currently led by Acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski. OJJDP funds state efforts to ensure federal juvenile justice standards are being met, state advisory groups, demonstration projects, and missing and exploited children’s programs.

“As a candidate for the job, you don't understand what it means to the field and the constituencies to have that direct oversight [of a] committee in the U.S. Congress, so the field can weigh in in a very powerful way regarding who gets that position,” said former OJJDP Administrator Shay Bilchik, who opposes the change. “Once it becomes simply a political appointment you lose that visibility and that transparency.”

Conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation also opposes the bill. Heritage’s David Addington, in an April opinion paper, wrote that “the sponsors of S. 679 have identified a valid problem, but proposed the wrong solution.”

“The Congress should not reduce the number of Senate-confirmed appointments as a means of dealing with its cumbersome and inefficient internal process for considering nominations,” Addington said. “Doing so gives away Senate influence over a number of significant appointments, does nothing to improve the Senate process, and still leaves nominees whose offices require nominations mired in the Senate process.”

The bill has the support of the Aspen Institute Commission to Reform the Appointments Process.

“S. 679 will make it possible for a new administration to fill very early in its first year about 70 communications and operations positions that new department heads need working with them to get off to a fast start and to communicate and work effectively,” the commission said in an opinion piece published this week in Youth Today and Roll Call.

Some other key youth-related positions that would no longer require a Senate confirmation vote:

Department of Education:

Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs, Department of Education
Commissioner – Rehabilitation Services Administration
Commissioner – Education Statistics
Members (15), National Board of Education Sciences

Department of Health and Human Services:

Commissioner, Administration for Native Americans

Corporation for National and Community Service

Managing Directors (two positions)

Department of Justice

Director, Bureau of Justice Statistics
Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance
Director, National Institute of Justice
Deputy Director, National Drug Control Policy
Deputy Director, Demand Reduction, National Drug Control Policy
Director, Office for Victims of Crime

 

Teens Face More Consequences from Sexting than Congressmen Do

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner may not have broken any laws by texting lewd photos of himself to younger women he didn’t know.

In many states, however, teens who send pictures of themselves to their own girlfriends or boyfriends can be prosecuted for child pornography.

Allyson Pereira calls that hypocrisy. She should know. She’s spent six years dealing with the consequences of “sexting” one topless image of herself to an ex-boyfriend.

Allyson was 15 at the time, and the boy said he’d date her again if she’d send him the photo. But he was playing her. According to Allyson, he sent the private image to his entire contact list.

For the next three years at Wallkill Valley Regional High School in northern New Jersey, she was bullied and ostracized. Paint cans were thrown in her family’s pool. A tire was rolled down their driveway, smashing a glass door to the house.

“It’s actually made me stronger,” she said in an interview with JJIE, “but there were times when I really was suicidal. If it hadn’t been for my family and one or two friends, I wouldn’t be here today.”

“I can’t even tell you what it was like to live with that,” her mother says. “These kids can be so cruel to each other.”

But Allyson and her family were afraid to report the situation to police because Allyson could have been prosecuted for sending child pornography — of herself.

In an effort to protect children, both Congress and state legislatures have passed tough criminal laws designating the electronic distribution of nude images of teenagers as child pornography and often requiring those convicted of “sexting” to be registered as sex offenders. The problem is that a net thrown by the legal system to catch adults who exploit children is now more effective at ensnaring children.

Most states now require youths who send nude or semi-nude images of minors to be criminally prosecuted. Alabama, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are among those where teenagers as young as 13 have been prosecuted or convicted for sexting.

One of those teens was Phillip Alpert of Orlando, Fla. At 3:28 in the morning after an argument with his 16-year-old girlfriend, Phillip, who had just turned 18, sent a semi-nude image of the girlfriend to her contact list. Her parents reported his actions to the police, who descended on his house with a search warrant.

Phillip faced 72 charges of various sorts, including the possession and distribution of child pornography. He was kicked out of school and, after pleading guilty, placed on probation for three years.

Most troubling of all, he’ll be listed as a sex offender until he’s 43. In Florida, that means he must tell the state when and where he moves; he can’t live near any schools, parks or playgrounds; and his offender’s status will show up on any Internet search of his name.

Georgia Juvenile Programs Will Lose Big if U.S. House Budget Passes

Georgia will lose $27 million for Head Start, a comprehensive early childhood development program for at-risk children, if the proposed U.S. House budget bill is signed into law, according to a new report by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.  The cut represents 3,900 seats in the program.

The 878,000 low-income kids enrolled in Education for the Disadvantaged programs across Georgia will also lose big.  Those programs will face a $40 million reduction in federal funds.

Some programs will lose federal funds altogether.  YouthBuild, a program that gives construction jobs and education to disadvantaged teens is zeroed out in the proposed bill.