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Washington, D.C. (September 22, 2020):  Yesterday the US House of Representatives unanimously passed the Justice for Juveniles Act (HR 5053), a bill that exempts youth under age 21 from the administrative burdens of the Public Litigation Reform Act, allowing them protections from widespread abuse and mistreatment while in out of home placements. 

The bill was sponsored by Representative Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, after widespread abuse of young people was discovered at the Glenn Mills School in Delaware County, PA in 2019.  Representative Scanlon was joined by Representative Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) as co-sponsor on the bill, gaining strong bipartisan support before passing. 

The Prison Litigation Reform Act was passed in 1996 to limit frivolous lawsuits against prisons concerning allegations of abuse and poor conditions.  It requires incarcerated people to exhaust all administrative remedies before being allowed to file a complaint with the courts, limits the type of relief that can be received and creates obstacles for legal representation; burdens that are difficult, particularly for children, to overcome. 

Youth are much more likely to be victims of abuse and maltreatment while incarcerated, particularly those in adult courts.  “We know that youth that are held in adult jails and prisons are highly vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse from others. That risk, paired with young people’s limited ability to exhaust complicated and laborious administrative requirements, creates an undue burden on our children, Says Marcy Mistrett, CEO at the Campaign for Youth Justice,  “We applaud Rep Scanlon and Rep. Armstrong for their leadership in ensuring Justice for Juvenile’s bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill is critical to ensuring that young people can remain safe when in correctional institutions.”

The Justice for Juveniles bill had broad support from the youth justice community, including from the Juvenile Law Center, in Pennsylvania.  The Campaign for Youth Justice looks forward to the U.S. Senate’s consideration of this bill. 

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