Youth Crime on Congress' 1998 Agenda

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A few months ago, Congress was set to overhaul all the federal juvenile-justice and youth-crime-prevention programs.

But, as with several education bills, the legislation to fully redraft federal youth-crime programs fell victim--temporarily--to time constraints and a last- minute push to pass spending legislation.

Congress did begin the work of overhauling the Department of Justice's office of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention, however, when it passed a $250 million youth-crime initiative this month as part of that department's fiscal 1998 appropriations bill.

The bill calls for transferring control of most federal juvenile-justice programs to the states in the form of block grants and giving state leaders greater flexibility in tailoring juvenile-crime programs to regional needs. It is unclear how much control Congress might choose to exercise over the money.

Unfinished Business

Congress is set to take up the juvenile-justice legislation and several other education-related bills sometime after it returns to Washington in January. The measures include:

  • Reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, which provides funding for vocational education, job training, and adult education programs.

A bill cleared the House, but awaits a vote on the Senate floor. ("Senate Voc. Ed. Bill Draws Lots of Criticism," Oct. 1, 1997.)

  • Bills to overhaul the federal charter school program and to establish a new children's literacy initiative. Both passed the House shortly before Congress adjourned this month. They, too, are awaiting Senate action. ("Clinton Administration Shifts Gears On Reading Bill," Nov. 19, 1997.)

It's unlikely the delay will imperil their prospects for passage, congressional aides say.

Congress is planning to finish overhauling the Justice Department's youth-crime programs when it takes up reauthorizing legislation for the juvenile-justice office next year

The Juvenile Crime Control and Delinquency Prevention Act, HR 1818, which swept through the House in July, would allow states to use federal dollars to pay for a broad range of juvenile-crime programs. ("House Set To Revamp Approach To Juvenile Justice," July 9, 1997.)

The companion bill in the Senate, S 10, would also give states wide latitude in crafting local youth-crime programs.

But some Democratic lawmakers in Congress, concerned that states would favor prison-building over violence-prevention projects, also plan to offer amendments to the Senate bill to set aside money for prevention programs.

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