October 11, 2022

Cárdenas Introduces Bipartisan Resolution Designating October 2022 National Youth Justice Action Month

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman Tony Cárdenas (D-CA)Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (R-IN) and Congressman David Trone (D-MD) introduced a bipartisan resolution designating October 2022 as National Youth Justice Action Month. The resolution shines light on the collateral consequences youth face when they are treated as adults in the criminal justice system, and encourages the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to prioritize rehabilitation and support over wasteful incarceration. Earlier this month, President Joe Biden proclaimed October 2022 to be National Youth Justice Action Month.

“Every year, 53,000 young people are tried and sentenced in the United States,” said Congressman Cárdenas.  “The fact is our children belong in schools, not prisons.  Yet, for too long, we have relied on an outdated juvenile justice model that prioritizes wasteful incarceration over efficient, effective rehabilitation.  Our resolution aims to shine light on the systemic problems in our juvenile justice system that keeps young Americans in a perpetual cycle of incarceration .”

“Effectiveness of the juvenile justice system, prevention efforts and successful rehabilitation are critical to keeping our communities safe and giving second chances,” said Congresswoman Spartz. “I am happy to join my colleagues in celebrating and raising awareness of these efforts through National Youth Justice Action Month.”

“It should be our nation’s highest priority to build a brighter future for our youth. As a nation with the highest youth incarceration rate, this priority is even more vital,” said Congressman Trone. “During National Youth Justice Action Month, we recommit ourselves to calling for accountability in our justice system and focusing on compassionate, effective policies to ensure everyone is given the chance to achieve the American Dream. We cannot accept the status quo – let’s get to work.”

A companion resolution is set to be introduced by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

“Kids who end up in the legal system deserve a fair chance to thrive as productive members of society.  But this system too often fails our nation’s kids – particularly young people of color and youngsters with disabilities or mental health issues,” said Whitehouse, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former Rhode Island Attorney General and U.S. Attorney.  “This October, we must commit to improving our juvenile justice system while also strengthening community-based efforts to ensure that young people receive age-appropriate support to stay out of the criminal justice system and get their lives on track.”

The United States has the highest youth incarceration rates of any developed nation. Each year, 53,000 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 as 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.  

Cárdenas has long been a leader in juvenile justice, beginning with his time in the California State Assembly when he co-authored and passed AB 1913, the Schiff-Cárdenas Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act, which has provided local communities with approximately $120 million per year, the single, largest appropriation of state funds for youth crime prevention in the history of the United States. Now in Congress, he 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. Last year, he led Congresswoman Karen Bass (CA-37) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) in introducing the Second Chance for Justice Package, a group of bills aimed at reforming the criminal and juvenile justice system. 

The resolution is endorsed by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, National Juvenile Justice Network, Alianza for Youth Justice, American Youth Policy Forum, Association of Children’s Residential & Community Services, Boys Town, BUILD Program, Center for Children’s Law and Policy, Champions in Service, Coalition for Engaged Education, Human Rights for Kids, Impact Justice, MENTOR, National Network for Youth, Raikes Foundation, Rights4Girls, Strategies for Youth, The Gault Center, The Sentencing Project, Youth Villages, 24 and None, Arts for Healing and Justice Network, Citizens for Juvenile Justice, Connecticut Justice Alliance, Nevada Division of Child and Family Services, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, Iowa’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Council, Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, Ohio Juvenile Justice Coalition, Hawaii Juvenile Justice State Advisory Council, Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Kentucky Youth Advocates Legal Rights Center, Michigan Center for Youth Justice, Michigan Children’s Law Center, Partnership Council for Juvenile Justice, Revolve Impact, Sycamores, Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, The Choice Program, The Dannon Project, The Kentucky Administrative Office of The Courts, Utah Juvenile Defender Attorneys, Visionary Youth Los Angeles, and Youth Justice Initiative.

"Youth Justice Action Month is an important opportunity to reflect on how far we've come, and to take action to continue to improve the way we address the needs of young people in our communities," said Naomi Evans, Esq., Executive Director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. "We are grateful that Congress and the White House have recognized the importance of keeping young people in their communities and providing them with the services and supports they need to lead successful lives."

"Youth Justice Action Month is a time when we as a nation have the opportunity to listen and learn from youth who are caught in the legal system," said Alyson Clements, Interim Co-Executive Director of the National Juvenile Justice Network. "We are pleased that Congress and the White House are taking this month to elevate the needs of young people and ensure we are investing in supports for kids and communities."

"Nobody’s life should be defined by what happened on their worst day. This is particularly true for young people who are still developing physically and mentally," said Lisette Burton, J.D., Chief Policy and Practice Advisor of the Association of Children's Residential & Community Services. "We must support the strengths in every young person and listen when young people and families tell us what they need. We appreciate that Congress and the White House are uplifting these truths by recognizing Youth Justice Action Month and reinforcing the community-driven solutions that help youth to thrive.”

To read the resolution, click here.