Home News Center Federal Juvenile Justice Update - May 2021

Federal Juvenile Justice Update - May 2021

May 27, 2021
Melissa C. Goemann

Picture of the U.S. Capitol

Still Seeking Sign-ons for Bipartisan Reform Package Introduced in Congress 


To build support for these measures, we need your organization to sign onto this support letterContact James Dold of Human Rights for Kids at jdold@humanrightsforkids.org to sign on. The deadline is today, May 28th. 

On April 28thCongressmembers Bruce Westerman (R- AR), Karen Bass (D- CA), and Tony Cárdenas (D- CA) introduced a bipartisan package of legislation focused on reforms to the federal youth legal system that can serve as a model for state systems. The bills establish age-appropriate protections for youth when they are arrested (Cárdenas, D-CA), align the federal government with human rights standards by establishing a minimum age of 12-years-old for juvenile court jurisdiction and heightened procedural safeguards that limit the prosecution of children in adult court (Bass, D-CA), and eliminate life and de facto life without parole sentences for children (Westerman, R-AR). Below are detailed summaries and links to the bills. 

Protecting Kids At The Point Of Arrest/Entrance Into The System 

Congressman Tony Cardenas' (D-CA) bill (H.R. 2834) requires parents to be notified when a child is arrested and requires that the child consult with legal counsel before they can waive their Constitutional Rights and be subject to custodial interrogation.  

Establishing A Minimum Juvenile And Adult Court Age; Removing Kids From Adult Jails & Prisons; Data Collection; Treatment & Services For Vulnerable Youth 

Congresswoman Karen Bass' (D-CA) bill (H.R. 2908) establishes a minimum age of 12 for criminal culpability for children; increases the minimum age for a child to be tried as an adult from 13 to 16; eliminates the felony murder rule for children; prohibits the placement of children in adult jails or prisons; requires data collection on youth who come into the federal criminal justice system; and establishes a grant block program for treatment and services for children under 12 and child victims of commercial sexual exploitation.      

Sentencing Reform & Ending Life Without Parole Sentences For Children 

Congressman Bruce Westerman's (R-AR) bill (H.R. 2858) would retroactively end life and de facto life without parole by giving individuals convicted of crimes as children the ability to petition a judge for sentencing review and modification after serving 20 years; give judges the ability to depart from mandatory minimums when sentencing children (up to 35% away from the minimum); and protect child sex crime victims from harsh sentencing when they commit acts of violence against their abusers.  

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