Citizen Voices Shape Juvenile Justice, Thanks to the JJDPA

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By Alexandra Staropoli, Esq.
CJJ Associate Director of Government and Field Relations

When the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act (JJDPA) was passed in 1974, it required states to “provide for an advisory group appointed by the chief executive of the State to advise the State planning agency and its supervisory board,” to be eligible to receive formula grants.1  This is still a requirement today. 

Advisory groups, also known as State Advisory Groups (SAGs), are mandated to include: at least one locally elected official; representatives of law enforcement; juvenile and family court judges; prosecutors and defense attorneys; probation workers; representatives of public agencies concerned with delinquency prevention (welfare, social services, mental health, education, etc.); representatives of private non-profit organizations (advocacy organizations with a focus on delinquency prevention); volunteers who work with youth charged with delinquent offenses; youth workers in alternative to incarceration programs; persons with experience in school violence, learning disabilities, and child abuse and neglect; at least 20% (one out of five) members who must be under age 24 at the time of appointment; and at least three members who have been or currently are under juvenile justice system jurisdiction.

The inclusion of SAGs in the statute almost forty years ago emphasizes the long-held belief that citizen-driven efforts to prevent and stem delinquency are critical for the effective administration of juvenile justice.

SAGs play an important role in the federal-state partnership established under the JJDPA. SAG members provide input into their state’s use of federal JJDPA funds. They are also responsible for supporting compliance with the four core protections of the JJDPA and providing information about the Act’s requirements to state and local policymakers. The JJDPA also requires SAGs to submit three-year plans that include problem statements, goals, objectives, and strategies to resolve the identified issues.

While implementing the JJDPA, SAG members are uniquely positioned to influence the policies and practices of their state by advocating for effective solutions proven to result in positive outcomes for youth and directing JJDPA resources toward activities that meet that goal. As community stakeholders, SAG members lend their expertise and help formulate plans that incorporate current knowledge and research on what works to prevent and reduce delinquency.

The 1974 Congress identified the need for a federal-state partnership on juvenile justice when they passed the JJDPA. They included advisory groups in the legislation because they recognized the importance of having community stakeholders involved in the administration of juvenile justice. Community stakeholders are best positioned to identify the needs of a system and how to meet those needs realistically and effectively. This is more important than ever today when Congress appears to have lost its focus on juvenile justice reform.

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice, the national organization representing SAGs and other juvenile justice stakeholders from all 50 states and territories, calls on Congress and the Administration to prioritize the nation’s youth and invest in juvenile justice.



In April 1986, in a report to the President, Members of Congress, and the Administrator of OJJDP, A.L. Carlisle, then Chair of the National Coalition of State Juvenile Justice Advisory Groups, wrote:

It is the overwhelming conviction of all those contributing to this report that the original Act was, and still is, a landmark for juvenile justice in this country.  During this period of fiscal constraint, it is essential that the President and Congress ensure that the Office and its important functions are not lost.  We believe that the youth of this nation represent our most valuable resource and that every effort must be made to protect and assist them.  The original promise of 1974 should not be delayed further.  We look forward to the opportunity to exercise our continuing responsibility to help achieve this promise for our youth.  Together, we can make the Office and the legislation what it was intended to be—a benchmark for judging this country by the quality of justice it provides to its youth.

A.L. Carlisle’s words still hold true today. The JJDPA matters. Our nation’s youth matter.


This is part of the ACT4JJ Campaign's JJDPA Matters Blog Project, a 16-week series that launched Sept. 10, 2013. You can find the full series at the JJDPA Matters Action Center.


1PUBLIC LAW 93-415-SEPT. 7, 1974