Juvenile Justice Bill Breezes Through U.S. Senate

A juvenile justice bill that would pump $5 billion over the next five years into state and local law enforcement programs passed the U.S. Senate recently by a 3-to-1 margin. The bill (S. 254) includes grants to states to the tune of $75 million a year to upgrade their juvenile criminal record systems and interface with a national criminal history database know as NCIC.

"It looks good for states getting money," said Nolan Jones, of the bill's chances of being passed. The bill now must pass the House. Jones, who handles juvenile and crime issues for the National Governors Association, said the legislation requires states to meet certain requirements to get recordkeeping funds.

Specifically, the legislation requires states to make juvenile felony records available in a central repository, as is done for adult offenders. And states must put in place procedures to allow school officials to access juvenile adjudication records under appropriate circumstances.

"Right now in most states, the systems [for juveniles and adults] are separate," said Mark O'Hara, the government affairs counsel with the National Criminal Justice Association. "It will be a major change in terms of how states are currently keeping records." States receiving grants for recordkeeping will need to show due diligence in moving toward these goals.

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