October 17, 2019

Cárdenas, Harris Introduce Bicameral Resolution Designating October “Youth Justice Action Month”

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced a bicameral resolution designating October 2019 as “National Youth Justice Action Month”. This resolution aims to shine a light on the broken juvenile justice model that prioritizes incarceration over rehabilitation and support.

“For too long, we have relied on an antiquated juvenile justice model that prioritizes wasteful incarceration over efficient, effective rehabilitation,” said Congressman Cárdenas. It is unconscionable that the United States leads developed nations in the highest youth incarceration rates. We need to address the root causes of juvenile delinquency rather than make matters worse. My resolution aims to shine a light on the systemic problems in our juvenile justice system that keeps young Americans incarcerated. American children belong in schools, not in prisons. The American people deserve safer streets and our children deserve a second chance.”

“Our criminal justice system too often treats youths as adults, barring them from age-appropriate resources and a real chance at getting back on track,” said Senator Harris. “It is our shared responsibility to work together to expand opportunities for all children and create stronger pathways to success for those who have become involved in the justice system. During National Youth Justice Action Month, I urge my colleagues and all Americans to take action to ensure that children who are involved in the criminal justice system have the support they need to reach their full potential.”

The United States has the highest youth incarceration rates of any developed nation. Each year, 76,000 of America’s youths are tried or sentenced as adults – most of whom are prosecuted for nonviolent offenses. Children under the age of 18 are not allowed to vote, yet in many states, children as young a seven can be tried as adults. According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, prosecuting youth in adult courts increases crime – on average, they are three percent more likely to commit future crimes than youth detained in the juvenile system. 

Last spring, Congressman Cárdenas and U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Richard Blumenthal, introduced the Reverse Mass Incarceration Act which establishes a grant program that allows states to invest in evidence-based programs designed to reduce incarceration rates while controlling crime. In April, Cárdenas introduced the Eliminating Debtor's Prison for Kids Act of 2019 that would end the cruel practice of collecting fines and fees that keep children in jail and American families in debt. Right now, across this country, young people are being held in detention because they cannot afford the legal fees imposed by our justice system.

Cárdenas is the founder and chairman of the Youth Justice Caucus working to support at-risk youth and fix the major problems in the United States juvenile justice system.