September 30, 2014
With the 113th Session of Congress winding down, we wanted to give you a sense of where everything stands with the Youth PROMISE Act. It’s undoubtedly clear that we were unable to get action on the Bills before the Senate and House went on recess before the elections. You may recall that we were following a Senate strategy that called for a markup of S.1307 by the Senate Judiciary Committee followed by movement to the Senate Floor and an anticipated positive vote. We had hoped that passage in the Senate would generate the momentum and motivation needed for Speaker Boehner to bring HR1318 to the House.
The Senate strategy was, and still is, predicated upon finding a Republican member of the Judiciary Committee willing to step up and be Manager of the Bill. Despite the hard work by many of you, Peace Alliance staff, and, of course, Zephranie Buetow, Senator Landrieu’s staffer, we were unable to achieve that goal before the recess.
Depending what happens in the November mid-term elections, we still have hope that something can be done in the so-called “lame duck” session prior to the new Congress being sworn in during early January.
Regardless, two facts are obvious. First, even if the Bills do not pass this Session, we are prepared to resume our efforts in the 114th Congress. And, there is reason for optimism due to the second obvious fact.
The second obvious fact is that thanks to your hard work and commitment, together we have made significant progress in educating policy makers and the media about the meaningful benefits that will result when the Youth PROMISE Act becomes a reality. There will be crucial involvement from local stakeholders who will determine for their own communities which prevention and early intervention approaches are most appropriate. There will be clear evidence concerning which alternative programs are most effective. There will be significant cost savings from the application of these programs compared to the costs of incarceration. Finally, and most importantly, these programs will save the lives of kids who otherwise would get involved with cycles of violence, incarceration, and, undoubtedly, despair. We will have altered the cradle to prison pipeline in a significant way.
Thanks to many of you, this “Summer of PROMISE” saw 18 new co-sponsors sign on in the House and Senate — including some key Republicans who will be very important to its passage.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) signed on two weeks ago. He is a very influential leader and former Chair of the Judiciary Committee. Two of our action teams in Florida and Alaska also recently got Republican Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and Ted Yoho (R-FL) to co-sponsor. Go Action Teams!
This brings us to a total of 129 co-sponsors in the House and 6 in the Senate.
Between our staff and Action Teams this past year, we’ve gotten dozens of Op-Eds, editorials and letters-to-the-editor published and have met with more than 60 members of Congress or their staffs. And this past year, thanks to all of you, we have sent over 40,000 messages to Congress and the President through letters, phone calls and e-mails!
Thanks to the tireless work of supporters like you, we’ve also earned major endorsements of the Youth PROMISE Act from the Baltimore Sun and Gainesville Sun.
As part of our effort to educate policymakers on the broader issues as well as just the Youth PROMISE Act, we have created state level factsheets for 12 different states, each describing the state of their juvenile justice system; the potential financial impact of prevention and intervention programs; and profiles of several different prevention and intervention programs, showing how effective each can be at changing lives. Members of Congress and their staffs are consistently interested in seeing the data from their state presented so clearly, and other advocacy organizations have drawn on these factsheets as a resource for other juvenile justice advocacy as well. The work we do for the Youth PROMISE Act helps shape a broader conversation.
With the help of our partners working on the Youth PROMISE Act, we have also been able to build a stronger base of support for the Youth PROMISE Act, with more conservative and moderate groups than we have ever had before. Networks of Prosecutors and Judges have signed on in support, and some have been willing to actively advocate for the bill. This gives the Youth PROMISE Act even stronger credibility across party lines, and has played a major role in increasing Republican support.
Even when these actions do not yield co-sponsorships, they create real progress. Members of Congress learn both about the bill and about the wider issue of juvenile justice reform, and the need for and efficacy of prevention and intervention as a way to build stronger and more peaceful communities. Congressional offices on both sides of the aisle, and in both the House and Senate, have really engaged on the issue and have begun to understand that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. They have also increasingly come to realize that addressing the issue through prevention and intervention is an obvious approach that benefits everyone involved. It is worth noting that very few Members of Congress have ever expressed concern with the substance of the bill; the only concerns we have ever heard expressed were about the technical side or the cost, and through discussions this term, we think that we’ll be able to modify the bill to make it even better in the next congressional term. With a stronger bill and a stronger, broader movement behind us, we expect to be in a very good position in the Lame Duck session and in the 114th Congress.