Rep. Jason Lewis’ (R-MN-02) Juvenile Justice Reform Act (JJRA) was signed into law Friday by President Donald Trump as part of Congress’ sweeping criminal justice reform measures.
According to Lewis, the JJRA hadn’t been “reauthorized or modernized since 2002.” Lewis’ reforms respond to the need for alternatives to detaining juveniles for “so-called ‘status crimes’ like skipping school.”
The bill, H.R. 6964, offers a “plan to provide alternatives to detention for status offenders, survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, and others.” The bill also seeks to “reduce the number of children housed in secure detention and corrections facilities who are awaiting placement in residential treatment programs.”
His bill will also modernize the juvenile-justice system by promoting “evidence-based and trauma-informed programs and practices,” and emphasizing “community-based services to respond to the needs of at-risk youth.”
The bill further eliminates the use of restraints on juveniles who are known to be pregnant, and prohibits detaining juveniles who are awaiting trial with adult inmates.
“Some of the most rewarding experiences I had in Congress were working with colleagues from all over the country and from varying political backgrounds on criminal justice reform,” Lewis said in a press release. “Today, my Juvenile Justice Reform Act was signed into law along with the First Step Act. With these bills, this already productive session of Congress now becomes more historic.”
“The bills passed this Congress mark the largest reforms to our justice system in decades—reforms that were long overdue,” Lewis continued, noting that his bill gained the support of law enforcement and the National Juvenile Justice Network.
“Juvenile justice and criminal justice reform isn’t a left or right issue, it’s simply good policy,” he concluded. “The progress we have made here shows that we can come together, work across the aisle, and solve the issues facing our nation.”
Lewis was defeated by Rep.-elect Angie Craig (D-MN-02) in the midterms, and will leave office in January.
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