Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) have scuttled a provision of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act reauthorization that would allow states out of compliance with the law to use penalized funds to work back toward compliance.
Instead, states out of compliance will lose that money, and it will be redistributed to compliant states and to the technical assistance budget of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).
The two Senators introduced a bill to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act in December. Under that act, states must comply with four core requirements; they lose 20 percent of the state formula grant for each requirement that isn’t met.
The December bill directed OJJDP to reallocate that money to the state as an “improvement grant,” usable only to move back toward compliance with the JJDPA.
That instruction was still present in the new JJPDA bill introduced late last week. But a separate section of the bill states that half of the funds withheld due to noncompliance are to be redistributed among the states that are fully compliant with the law. The other half of the docked funds go to OJJDP to use for training and technical assistance grants.
The sections appear to contradict each other, and Grassley spokeswoman Beth Levine informed The Chronicle this week that the reallocation grant section should not have been included.
“It was just a drafting error that will be corrected when the bill gets brought up in the committee,” Levine said. “Chairman Grassley’s intent is that states that are out of compliance are not eligible for improvement grants.”
She acknowledged that the reallocation plan was intentionally included in the December bill.
“As Senator Grassley made clear at the time, the bill that was introduced in the last Congress was a starting point for discussion this year,” Levine said. “This was one of the provisions that was changed in this year’s bill.”
In the time between the two bills, Grassley received loads of information from the Department of Justice in regard to his concern about the integrity of the compliance program at OJJDP. In a late April hearing convened by Grassley, Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason conceded that the process needed major improvement.
The reallocation grant plan had some support when it was included in December.
“I don’t have any quarrel with the principle that the withheld money be used to promote compliance,” said Mark Soler, executive director of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy.
A state-level juvenile justice leader told The Chronicle that fully removing funds from states does not have the intended effect.
“Capturing noncompliance penalties takes away the financial ability to maintain compliance,” he said, especially for low-population states that receive the minimum allocation of JJDPA funds.
Click here to read Youth Services Insider‘s analysis of everything in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act reauthorization bill.
John Kelly is an editor for The Chronicle of Social Change