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Bass, Cárdenas, Booker Announce Second Chance for Justice Legislative Package

July 28, 2021
Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Congresswoman Karen Bass (CA-37) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) released the Second Chance for Justice Package, a group of bills aimed at reforming the criminal and juvenile justice system.

“After decades of increasingly punitive and failed juvenile justice policies, it’s time to take a step in a direction that recognizes that children are different than adults, that they have enormous potential for rehabilitation, change, and growth, and that we can do better to meet their developmental needs,” said Congresswoman Bass. “This applies to all children – no matter what they look like or where they grow up. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this package to narrow the pipeline of children entering the criminal justice system.”

“Growing up in Pacoima, I witnessed how our broken criminal and juvenile justice systems kept neighborhood kids in a perpetual cycle of incarceration,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “I saw how systemic problems literally ruined the lives of generations of children. We all make mistakes when we’re young, but those mistakes should not determine our futures. I'm leading the Second Chance for Justice legislative package with Congresswoman Bass and Senator Booker because I believe our children deserve to live in a world where they can change for the better, and where their future is not defined by a single mistake. Our bills will provide smart, meaningful solutions and close loopholes that treat at-risk kids like criminals. Investing in children is one of the best things we can do, and I’m proud our package embodies the principles that will give them the second chance they deserve.” 

“Our nation’s broken criminal justice system is the result of decades of failed policies that have shattered families and inflicted devastating harm on young people, especially on Black and Brown youth,” said Senator Booker. "Our juvenile justice bills will provide critical, innovative, and community-based solutions that will protect minors who are involved with the criminal justice system and provide them the support to avoid contact with the system in the first place.”

Studies have proven that locking up children does not reduce crime or the rate of juvenile recidivism - it has the opposite effect. While incarcerated, children are often provided with inadequate education instruction, health care and counseling services and are at greater risk of maltreatment, physical and psychological abuse, sexual assault and suicide. Kids in the juvenile justice systems are disproportionately identified as having special needs and are disproportionately low-income, LGBTQ+, Black and Latino. The majority of these children have no knowledge of their rights, no means to contact a lawyer or no financial resources for legal fees. It’s clear that when it comes to children, the United States falls short of human rights standards. 

Given the current climate, bold juvenile and criminal justice reform have never been more important. The Second Chance for Justice Package includes three legislative bills that aim to reform the criminal and juvenile justice system by protecting children during police interrogations; supporting community-based organizations and their work to further evidence-based prevention and intervention initiatives for at-risk youth; and eliminating the practice of collecting juvenile fines and fees that are harmful to children and families.    

The Second Chance for Justice includes three bills that have been introduced in the House and Senate. 

  • The Protecting Miranda Rights for Kids Act seeks to protect children during police interactions and ensures their due process Constitutional Rights are upheld by requiring law enforcement to notify and contact parents or guardians in the event a child is arrested or detained.
  • The Community-Based Gang Intervention Act will allow the Office of Juvenile Justice and Prevention to provide funding and direction for agencies to intervene in the lives of young people who are at-risk, keeping them out of the prison system and making communities safer. 
  • The Eliminating Debtor’s Prison for Kids Act will establish a grant program to provide meaningful resources for intervention programs to prevent juveniles’ initial involvement in the justice system.  

In 2000, as a California State Assemblyman, Congressman Cárdenas co-authored and passed the Schiff-Cárdenas Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act which has provided local communities with approximately $120 million per year, the single, largest appropriation of state funds for youth crime prevention in the history of the United States. Confirming its effectiveness, a report from the Rand Corporation indicates that statewide efforts after the passage of the Schiff-Cárdenas Act have resulted in lower law enforcement costs and a measurable positive effect on young people who participate in it. 

The legislative package is supported by over 20 organizations: The Sentencing Project, Human Rights for Kid, National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition, Coalition for Juvenile Justice, Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth, National Juvenile Justice Network, Brennan Center for Justice, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Juvenile Law Center, Revolve Impact , Alianza for Youth Justice, Coalition for Engaged Education, New Earth, Berkeley Law Policy Advocacy Clinic, National Center for Youth Law, National Juvenile Defender Center, New Directions for Youth, Alliance for Community Empowerment (ACE, The Professional Community Intervention Training Institute (PCITI), Visionary Youth and Champions In Service. 

Quotes from endorsing organizations can be found here.

Summaries of each bill and additional background information can be found here