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House of Representatives Approves Bill to Overhaul Juvenile-Justice Programs

For the second time in 10 days, the House of Representatives has approved an education-reauthorization bill.

On Thursday, the House passed the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act of 2016 by a vote of 382-29. It's a proposed retooling of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which was first passed in 1974. 

The bill's lead author is Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla. It got unanimous approval by the House education committee, which approved the legislation last week amid bipartisan praise. Click here to see more details about the bill. Here are a few highlights:

  • It requires more data and reporting about juvenile-justice programs.
  • Curbelo's bill promotes "trauma-informed" care for at-risk children and their families. 
  • The legislation attempts to ensure a smoother transition out of juvenile-justice programs into educational programs.
  • The act changes the definition of an adult inmate to ensure it cannot include someone who, at the time of his or her offense, is "younger than the maximum age at which a youth can be held in a juvenile facility under applicable State law." 
  • It prohibits certain contact between juveniles and adult inmates.

"The Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act will give state and local leaders more flexibility to meet the specific needs of children in their communities," Curbelo said in a statement when the bill passed. "It prioritizes evidence-based strategies with proven track records to reduce juvenile delinquency and includes several measures to better understand the best ways to serve juveniles and implement the law."

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced his own juvenile-justice reauthorization bill last year, but the Senate hasn't made the same progress the House has on reauthorization.

"Today's bill improves the core protections for youth in the system. It requires states to develop plans to address the pathways by which girls are entering the system at higher rates than boys. And, it directs research to study the different paths of entry into the juvenile system, such as school-based arrests, or failure to pay fines and other fees for minor offenses," said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va. and the top Democrat on the House education committee, in a statement applauding the full House vote.

On Sept. 13, the full House also approved a reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which was last reauthorized in 2006. The Senate education committee had initially scheduled a markup for its own Perkins bill earlier this week, but the meeting was postponed. 

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