Justice for Juveniles: New Legislation Aims to Protect Young Abuse Victims in Correctional Facilities

United States Capitol© Amy Sparwasser / Getty Images / Canva

U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representatives Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA-5) and Kelly Armstrong (R-ND-AL) introduced legislation on Friday to create better avenues of recourse for young people who have suffered abuse in correctional facilities. The Justice for Juveniles Act would exempt anyone under the age of 22 from the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), which, among other things, currently requires juveniles to resolve complaints through the correctional facility’s internal grievance procedures before filing a lawsuit. Often times this forces juveniles to seek help from the very individuals their complaints are against, leaving them vulnerable to retaliation. The Justice for Juveniles Act would open the courthouse doors to ensure that juveniles are able to seek justice and protection in our federal courts.

“Our criminal justice system is in need of major reforms, especially for our youth. Too often, abused and harassed children in detention centers are forced to seek help from the very same people who are abusing and harassing them with few alternatives for recourse,” Senator Casey said. “With the Justice for Juveniles Act, I’m fighting to ensure juveniles in detention centers can seek help without fear of retaliation so we can change the trajectories of these young lives.”

“Young people who are incarcerated face a heightened risk of long-term trauma, so it’s especially important that we ensure accountability for their well-being. When juveniles come forward with allegations of abuse, they must be taken seriously and with an understanding that they encounter added difficulties navigating complex legal systems. This bill will help improve legal options for young people in custody, and I encourage my House and Senate colleagues to support this commonsense piece of criminal justice reform legislation,” said U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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“America’s young people deserve our protection, but we let them down when we subject them to violence and psychological abuse in correctional facilities,” Rep. Scanlon said. “Incarcerated youth are both more vulnerable to these horrors and less equipped to navigate the complex legal systems necessary to raise allegations of abuse. I’m proud to partner with Senators Casey, Durbin, and Rep. Armstrong in introducing the Justice for Juveniles Act to keep young people safe from harm and help them seek justice.”

“Juveniles in custody face unique challenges and it’s important that we bring more accountability for their well-being,” Congressman Armstrong said. “I’m excited to re-introduce the Justice for Juveniles Act, which is commonsense criminal justice reform that will improve legal options for minors navigating the court system.”

“We’re facing a crisis right now, with young people across the country forced into overcrowded, understaffed facilities where they experience strip searches, solitary confinement, and violence,” Jessica Feierman, Senior Managing Director of Juvenile Law Center said. “We are grateful to Representatives Scanlon and Armstrong and Senators Casey and Durbin for introducing this much-needed legislation to increase children’s access to the courts.”

Read more about the Justice for Juveniles Act here.

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