Transforming Youth Justice Systems to Eliminate Disparities and Better Support Young People

By Brian K. Bumbarger & Kristen Harper, Child Trends | January 25, 2024

Stoneleigh Fellow Shay Bilchik recently joined other youth justice transformation leaders for a webinar hosted by Child Trends and the Coalition for Juvenile Justice to talk about the last 50 years of justice system reform.

2024 marks the 50th anniversary of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), the nation’s most significant federal policy for improving juvenile justice systems. The milestone arrives at a time when state and local reforms are threatened by polarized politics and media narratives regarding youth crime, and by persistent racial and ethnic disparities amplified during the COVID pandemic.

To commemorate the occasion, Child Trends and the Coalition for Juvenile Justice hosted a webinar featuring distinguished youth justice transformation leaders discussing the contributions of the JJDPA and offering their thoughts on the most pressing challenges ahead. The panel acknowledged important progress under the JJDPA’s core requirements to protect youth involved in the justice system, but recognized the need for further reforms to create youth justice systems that are equitable, fair, just, and help young people thrive. To help federal lawmakers and the juvenile justice field understand the 50-year arc of the JJDPA—due for reauthorization as of 2024—this blog offers four key takeaways from our commemorative event.

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