Scanlon’s Justice for Juveniles Act Unanimously Passes House

The legislation was introduced in part as a response to abuse exposed at Glen Mills

[Picture from December 2019]

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Representative Mary Gay Scanlon’s Justice for Juveniles Act passed the House unanimously and awaits action in the Senate. This bill was introduced in part as a response to decades of abuse exposed at Glen Mills, the nation’s oldest reform school which closed in April of 2019.

America’s prisons have been home to widespread abuse and mistreatment of youth. Young people are often subjected to systemic harms such as physical and sexual violence, solitary confinement, pepper spray, and harmful restraints from other youth and facility staff.

The Justice for Juveniles Act will protect young people from abuse in prisons by exempting them from the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).

Under current guidelines, the PLRA makes it difficult for abused youth to seek any remedy for their suffering by setting burdensome requirements before a lawsuit can be filed, limiting the types of relief that can be received, preventing lawsuits for emotional injuries, and creating obstacles that can impede retention of adequate legal representation.

The Justice for Juveniles Act exempts youth from the requirements of the PLRA to ensure that they are properly protected from abuse in these institutions.

“We have an obligation to protect the wellbeing of all children and with the House’s passage of our Justice For Juveniles Act we are one step closer to protecting children in corrections facilities,” Representative Scanlon said. “We are grateful to the Campaign for Youth Justice, the Juvenile Law Center, and their coalition partners for their support of this critical legislation, and to the investigative reporting of the Philadelphia Inquirer that inspired this bill. We look forward to the Senate bringing this bill for a vote.”

The Justice for Juveniles Act is a bipartisan effort co-lead by Representative Kelly Armstrong, and has received support from organizations on the front lines of ensuring access to justice for our youth, including the Juvenile Law Center and the Campaign for Youth Justice.

“Young people in justice facilities face a grave risk of solitary confinement, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and exposure to COVID. Today’s win protects vulnerable youth by making it easier for them to seek help from federal courts,” Jessica Feierman, Senior Managing Director of Juvenile Law Center. “We are heartened by the bipartisan support in the House and urge the Senate to take quick action to keep youth safe.”

The Campaign for Youth Justice said, “Today the US House of Representatives, under the leadership of Rep Mary Gay Scanlon, took critical action to protect children with the passage of Justice for Juveniles Bill. This bill recognizes the unique vulnerabilities of children and protects their safety while incarcerated. We look forward to the Senate taking up this bill soon.”

A copy of the bill can be found here link.