Carolyn McCarthy

Juvenile Justice - July 12, 2007

Carolyn McCarthy
July 12, 2007— Washington, D.C.
House committee speech
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Rep. McCarthy gives her opening statement at a Joint Hearing of the Committee on Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities and the Judiciary Committee Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee concerning juvenile justice.

I am pleased to welcome all of you to the Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities joint hearing with the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, chaired by my colleague, Representative Bobby Scott from Virginia.

We appreciate the subcommittee's participation today and his personal desire to demonstrate the importance of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act, or J.J.

I would also like to thank my ranking member, Mr. Platts, my colleague on the Healthy Families Subcommittee, and Ranking Member Forbes, for their interest and supporting the hearing.

Finally, I want to recognize Chief Joseph Wing, from the Hempstead Police Department in my district. We met yesterday with Detective Thomas Doran, talking about the projects that we have in my district on helping juveniles.

I met with Chief Wing. And also, we talked about Project Ceasefire, Project Impact and the Nurse and Family Partnership--some effective juvenile programs they are working with, with our D.A. in Nassau County.

So, I want to thank you both for being here this afternoon and thank you for coming down to see me.

Today's hearing serves as an overview of the legislation and will also offer perspectives for the Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities to consider as we move through the reauthorization process.

Although this is our first hearing on this topic in Washington, last month our subcommittee held a hearing on gang prevention in my district, with Ranking Member Platts and Ms. Clarke in attendance.

We heard about the challenges faced by law enforcement, the courts and local communities in dealing with the juvenile justice system. Ideally, we would like to prevent youth from entering the juvenile justice system, but we must also look at how to serve those young people already in the system and develop ways to help them get involved in their communities after they have served their time.

J.J. began with a focus on prevention and rehabilitation, and has shifted its focus towards accountability and sentencing. Unfortunately, many of us think that is just not working.

During a trip to Northern Ireland in May, I had the privilege of meeting a number of young people, that they have the same rates of crime as we do here. But their system over there, president with myself, showed me a play that they wrote. And it happened to be about two young women, young girls. They were both about 14 at the time.

And it went through where they got into a little bit of trouble. One judge took one young lady and said, you know, this is your first offense, and we think that, you know, we want to work with you. And she did not go to prison. The other young woman, unfortunately, got another judge, and he put her into prison. Their paths certainly separated, but their lives changed dramatically.

The young woman that did not go to prison was doing community service, got involved in the right agencies and went on and finished high school, went on to college and certainly had a productive life.

The other young woman, every time she came out of prison ended up doing a criminal act. And in the end, unfortunately, ended up killing someone and ended up going to prison for the rest of her life.

What the play showed, and what we know in life, depending on how we handle our young people, that is going to be how their lives are going to go. And I think that is important for us to remember as we go through all the testimony that we are going to be hearing.

Sorry, I ad-libbed on that one.

Young people who do not feel connected to society will look to other sources such as gangs for acceptance, stability, companionship and a sense of identity.

For these at-risk children and teenagers, we must invest in their education and their personal development. Communities must come together to address these challenges. Leaders in government, law enforcement, education, business and communities must work with kids, parents and citizens to address the needs of our young people so they do not enter into the juvenile justice system.

Far too many youth prevention efforts have fallen short, and our goal is to reverse that trend.

The overview today will be to educate members on J.J. and raise questions such as, what is the appropriate federal role in juvenile justice? Is the coordinating council effective? Do we need to update the core mandates?

What is research telling us about effective programs and interventions? What does research into early childhood development tell us?

We will hear testimony today that will help the subcommittee answer these questions, as we move to reauthorize this important legislation.

I want to thank you all for joining us today.

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