President Biden calls for historic funding allocations for youth legal system reform

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Author: Megan Holmes is a Legal Extern for Summer 2021

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) commends President Joe Biden’s historic call for funding to bolster and reform the youth legal system in the administration’s fiscal year 2022 proposed budget. The President requests a major increase in juvenile justice spending, from $346 million in FY ‘21 to $796 million for FY ‘22. If this allocation came to fruition, it would be the largest budget in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA)’s nearly 50-year history. 

Congress passed the JJDPA in 1974 in an effort to address the inconsistent and disparate outcomes faced by youth in the United States’ legal system. The youth legal system is a patchwork of 56 independent agencies operated by states, territories, counties, and tribes. Federal funding allocations are essential to the success of state and local juvenile justice programming, creating successful partnerships between the federal government and local governing agencies with standardized principles and practices for youth in every funded state. 

While CJJ applauded budget increases over the FY ‘20 and ‘21 fiscal years following the JJDPA’s reauthorization, federal appropriations to youth legal programs had been cut dramatically in the last decade, hindering states' ability to serve youth. Cuts have forced states to reduce services and further cuts could jeopardize access to programs keeping young people out of the legal system. However, the historic investments proposed in the President’s FY ‘22 budget provide groundbreaking funding requests that could fundamentally reshape the youth legal system for the better. They also serve as an important statement that the youth legal system will be a priority for the new administration, and that they are committed to ensuring states have the funding they need for critical programs to keep our most vulnerable youth safe. 


President Biden’s Proposed Allocations for the Youth Legal System

President Biden’s proposed $796 million allocation for the Office of Justice Programs’ (OJP) Juvenile Justice Programs is distributed as follows:

  • Title II State Formula Grants: $250 million (increased from $67 million in FY ‘21)

  • Youth Mentoring: $120 million (increased from $100 million in FY ‘21)

  • Title V Local Delinquency Prevention Program: $100 million (increased from $49 million in FY ‘21)

    • $10 million for grants to prevent trafficking of girls (increased from $2 million in FY ‘21)

    • $30 million for the Tribal Youth Program (increased from $10 million in FY ‘21)

    • $500,000 for an website providing information and resources on children of incarcerated parents

    • $15 million for competitive grant programs focusing on girls in the youth legal system (increased from $3 million in FY ‘21)

    • $16 million for initiatives relating to youth affected by opioids, stimulants, and other substance abuse (increase from $10 million in FY ‘21)

    • $18 million for children exposed to violence (increased from $8 million in FY ‘21)

    • $10.5 million unallocated funds remain for programs that may quality for youth PROMISE grants 

  • $6 million for child abuse training programs for judicial personnel and practitioners (increased from $3.5 million in FY ‘21)

  • $40 million for programs to improve juvenile indigent defense (increased from 2.5 million in FY ‘21)

  • $100 million for an initiative for community-based alternatives to youth incarceration (New funding)

  • $10 million for a community violence intervention initiative (New funding)


Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) Appropriation Requests

While CJJ sees this proposed budget as a first step in the right direction, the budget process is just beginning. Congress will propose its budget later this year and move into the appropriations process. Congress recommitted to the JJDPA’s principles when it reauthorized the legislation in 2018. This year, it must take a stand for young people and invest in innovative and cost effective reforms that keep youth out of trouble and communities safe.

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice demands that Congress fully fund the following programs:

  • $250,000,000 for Title II State Formula Grants Program. Supports state efforts to implement the JJDPA and compliance with its core requirements. Designed to protect children from the dangers of placement in adult jails and lockups; keep status offenders/non-delinquent children out of locked custody; and address the racial and ethnic disparities faced by youth of color in the justice system. Over the past decade, Title II has been cut by nearly 25%. 

  • $100,000,000 for Title V Local Delinquency Prevention Grants Program. One of the only federal programs specifically designed to prevent delinquency at the local level, Title V prioritizes the use of evidence-based approaches, requires the creation of a local policy board ("Promise Councils") to engage in the development of prevention programming to ensure the unmet needs of at-risk youth, and leverages the commitment and resources of state and local jurisdictions by requiring that the state and local applicant provide a 50% match. Since 2017, Congress has earmarked Title V funding for specific purposes. Over the past decade, Title V has been cut by nearly 35%. 

  • $30,000,000 for the Tiffany Josyln Juvenile Accountability Block Grant Reauthorization and Bullying Prevention and Intervention Act of 2019 (H.R. 494), as passed by unanimous consent in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 115th and 116th Congress. Since 2014, this funding allocation has been eliminated entirely. 

  • $100,000,000 to support OJJDP, and to ensure that it is able to return to at least 50% of its operations levels. The office saw major reductions in staffing over the past four years and has not seen staffing levels this low in more than a decade, directly impacting their ability to support states and serve our young people. (not sure about this either)

  •  $100,000,000 to support states to close and repurpose youth prisons. Funding would be used to support a robust planning process to: ​

  1. help redirect resources freed up by closure to support more effective alternatives to incarceration and community-based progams for system-involved youth and needed services outside the justice system.  
  2. address economic concerns such as the re-employment of prison workers and the economic impact of youth prison closures on communities. 


Take Action

Contact your Members of Congress today to ask them to make youth justice a priority in 2021 and fund the JJDPA at the president’s requested levels to reduce youth incarceration and reform the youth legal system: