Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Bass, Cárdenas Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Reform Juvenile Justice System

April 30, 2021
Press Release
WASHINGTON – Today, Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), and Bruce Westerman (R-AR) introduced the Childhood Offenders Rehabilitation and Safety Act of 2021 to update and improve our outdated federal juvenile crime laws.

“Studies have proven that punishing children the way we punish adults does not advance public safety,” said Rep. Karen Bass, co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “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. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this vital piece of legislation to narrow the pipeline of children entering the criminal justice system.”

“Far too many young people, especially in communities of color, have fallen victim to an unjust system that treats children as adults,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “When we sentence a child to life without parole, we throw away a life. The science is clear, children and adults are different, and we must acknowledge that children have a unique capacity for change, and that under the guidance of professionals they can grow into responsible adults. Under no circumstance does punishing children advance public safety. That’s why I’m proud to join Congresswoman Bass in introducing the Childhood Offenders Rehabilitation and Safety Act to provide long overdue updates to our federal juvenile justice system, truly give children a second chance, drastically reduce taxpayer costs and create safe neighborhoods.”

The Childhood Offenders Rehabilitation and Safety Act would:

  • Clarify that for the purpose of federal court jurisdiction, a “juvenile” is a person who has passed their 12th birthday but has not yet reached their 18th birthday. Children under the age of 13 would not be prosecuted for crimes in federal court.
  • Raise the age for discretionary federal adjudication of a child in adult proceedings from 15 years old to 16 years old;
  • Provide safeguards for juveniles in federal jurisdiction against the developmentally deleterious effects of extended incarceration or confinement with adults by taking into consideration at sentencing evidence of childhood trauma, adverse childhood experiences, involvement in foster care, and the best interest of the child;
  • Prohibit placement of juveniles in federal adult correctional facilities;
  • Require federal data collection related to juveniles adjudicated in federal criminal jurisdiction or detained in federal custody for crimes committed as juveniles;
  • Eliminate applying the felony murder rule to juveniles. The felony murder rule allows a defendant to be charged with first-degree murder for a killing that occurs during a dangerous felony, even if the defendant is not the killer; and
  • Incorporate provisions of the bipartisan CONNECT Act legislation introduced by Senators Grassley and Peters, and Congressmembers Sanchez and Schweikert, providing an HHS grant program under Title IV-B Part 2 (MaryLee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program) for local child welfare and juvenile justice department collaborations that meet the needs of families and their children who are excluded from adult or criminal adjudication by age, child survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, or cross-over and dual status youth. Dual status youth are involved with both foster care and juvenile justice systems, while cross-over youth become involved in one system and “cross” to the other. The grant program will help ensure trauma-focused, developmentally appropriate services are delivered by multidisciplinary teams that will create treatment plans with the children, family, stakeholders, and service providers.