Monday, February 04, 2008

Congressional Briefing Held On Youth PROMISES Act

On Jan. 29, a Capitol Hill event was held to discuss HR 3846, the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education Act (Youth PROMISES Act) introduced last fall by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and to generate increased support for the measure from the community.

This bill's goal is to put an end to what some have dubbed the "cradle to prison pipeline" by reducing gang violence and crime through focusing resources on preventative programs and the needs identified by local communities. Carol Chodroff from Human Rights Watch opened the briefing by describing the Youth PROMISES Act as "good" gang prevention legislation, versus other introduced bills which focus on increased mandatory minimum sentences for juvenile offenders and expanding the definition of "gang activities," resulting in the arrest of more juveniles. Instead, she argues, Representative Scott's legislation focuses on prevention, early education and increased resources that reach youth early enough to be successful in eliminating increased delinquency.

The Youth PROMISES Act aims to put research-based programs into legislative practice and mobilizes community leaders to identify specific strengths, as well as gaps, that need to be addressed. These local "councils" are then able to apply for funding to implement programs that meet these needs. Lynn White from the Children's Defense Fund stated that the intersection of race and poverty in this country are the biggest predictors of incarceration. She shared staggering statistics that demonstrate this point.

According to CDF's "Cradle to Pipeline" report, African males have a one in three chance of going to prison; Hispanic males have a one in six chance; and Caucasian boys have a one in 17 chance. Miriam Rollin shared highlights from a recent report published by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California, which looked at the link between drop-out prevention programs and a reduction in the crime rate. Rollin stated that five approaches to reducing the drop-out rate have been identified as highly effective: smaller learning communities, effective pre-school programs, targeted drop-out programs, effective class-size reduction and increased investments in quality teachers. In her view, the Youth PROMISES Act would help communities implement these strategies and ultimately reduce crime.

For more information on this legislation and to sign on to an organizational support letter contact Tara Andrews at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice at (202) 467-0864 or Angela Arboleda at the National Council of La Raza at (202) 776-1789.

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