October 21, 2021

Cárdenas, Trone, Spartz Introduce Youth Justice Action Month Resolution

WASHINGTON, DC  Today, in a press conference at the United States Capitol, Representatives Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), David Trone (MD-6) and Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) announced the introduction of a resolution designating October 2021 as “National Youth Justice Action Month.” The resolution recognizes the importance of rehabilitating and treating youthful offenders while holding them accountable and maintaining public safety. Senate companion legislation will be introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

“For decades, our nation’s juvenile justice model has failed young people,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “Growing up in Pacoima, I saw how a system that prioritizes increasingly punitive policies over efficient and effective rehabilitation ruins the lives of generations of children and devastates communities. My resolution aims to shine a light not only on children’s potential for rehabilitation and growth, but also on how our antiquated juvenile justice system keeps them from doing so.” 

“It’s a sad fact that the U.S. incarcerates more young people than any other developed country. It’s absurd to ignore or deny this reality,” said Congressman Trone. “The strategy of just throwing these kids in the system isn’t a solution, it’s an injustice. By highlighting this issue every year during National Youth Justice Action Month, we can get these kids the help they really need.” 

“The juvenile justice system is an integral part of the criminal justice system. Its effectiveness is critical to ensuring that our rights are protected, the public is safe, and at-risk youth have opportunities to succeed in life,” said Rep. Spartz. “I am happy to join my colleagues in celebrating and raising awareness of these efforts through the National Youth Justice Action Month.” 

“We hope Youth Justice Action Month encourages Congress and individuals across the nation to rethink our approach to youth who come into contact with the legal system. Children need compassion, not court systems. We must deconstruct our harmful carceral institutions and instead build a framework that views all youth as children, wrapping them in supports so they can thrive,” said K Ricky Watson, Jr. Executive Director at the National Juvenile Justice Network.

"We are grateful for the leadership that Rep. Cardenas, Rep. Spartz, and Rep. Trone have shown on addressing the needs of young people in the legal system! While we have come a long way in reducing the number of young people who are arrested and incarcerated, we still have much farther to go, particularly as it relates to reducing the number of young people who are sent to the criminal justice system, and addressing the racial and ethnic disparities that exist in our courts. YJAM is an important opportunity to honor how far we have come, and recommit to the important work that stands before us," said Naomi Evans, Esq., Executive Director at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation designating this month as “National Youth Justice Action Month.”

The United States has the highest youth incarceration rates of any developed nation. Each year, an estimated 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.   

Congressman 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.