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June forum to take on the issue of juvenile justice

OW Staff | 5/29/2013, 5 p.m.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the leading Democrat on the Congressional Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, will be the featured guest at the Criminal Justice Forum: Undo Mandatory Minimums scheduled for June 8 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Bethel A.M.E. Church, 7900 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles.

Scott has led efforts to pass comprehensive juvenile justice reform, and is the sponsor of the Youth PROMISE Act, which would provide resources to local governments for strategies to prevent juvenile crime.

The Youth PROMISE Act is a breakthrough piece of legislation that will implement and fund evidence-based practices related to juvenile justice and criminal gang activity. It will work to interrupt the cradle-to-prison pipeline that is far too common today by supporting proven prevention and intervention strategies.

The act will not just encourage, but require local leadership and oversight of these programs through community-based committees.

All credible research shows that evidenced-based prevention programs for at-risk youth will greatly reduce crime and save much more than they cost, And, most importantly, these programs save lives.
The Youth PROMISE Act will:

* Fund, implement and evaluate an array of evidence-based, locally controlled youth and gang violence prevention and intervention practices.
* Hold communities accountable by linking funding to measurable success and requiring that at least 85 percent of funding be spent directly on programs.
* Create a PROMISE advisory panel of state representatives to aid in assessing community needs and resources, developing and enforcing program evaluation standards and overseeing implementation.
* Engage a wide range of community stakeholders to serve on local PROMISE coordinating councils, which will develop and implement custom PROMISE Plans for their communities. The councils will include: community and faith-based groups; schools, parents and youth; courts and law enforcement; health providers and social services entities; nonprofit organizations and other stakeholders.
* Build on local strengths by partnering with colleges and universities as regional research partners, and establishes a National Research Center for Proven Juvenile Justice Practices.

The legislation is designed to underwrite the activities through a series of grants.

The PROMISE Act is currently making its way through congressional committees. On the House side, the legislation has been referred to the Education/Workforce Committee; on the Senate side, Louisiana's Mary Landrieu had attached the act to the gun legislation debated and killed in the Senate recently. Now she is in the process of gathering co-sponsors to possibly introduce the proposal as stand-alone legislation.

The Los Angeles forum, sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass, D.-Los Angeles, will address some of the shortcomings of mandatory minimum sentencing.

According to Bass, many studies have shown mandatory minimum penalties have not improved public safety and have actually exacerbated existing racial disparities within the criminal justice system.

African Americans are disproportionately impacted by mandatory minimum drug laws, with higher percentages of Blacks sentenced to prison despite the fact that nationwide rates of substance dependence and levels of drug dealing are virtually identical between African American and White populations.

Those interested in attending the forum are encouraged to pre-register by going online to http://bass.house.gov/event/mandatory-minimums or calling (323) 965-1422.