House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Republicans
Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.

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Committee Statement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2010

CONTACT: Alexa Marrero
or Brian Newell
(202) 225-4527

Petri Statement: Hearing on “Reforming the Juvenile Justice System to Improve Children’s Lives and Public Safety”

Thank you Mr. Chairman and welcome to our witnesses. Mr. Kline sends his regrets that he is unable to be with us this morning. We are here today to examine juvenile justice and the goals of Congress as it looks to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Last reauthorized in 2002, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act helps state and local leaders reduce juvenile crime through programs and activities aimed at prevention. 

An important part of this effort are faith-based programs that offer valuable services to help reform juvenile offenders once they have served their time. Faith-based organizations are an avenue for juvenile offenders to escape the downward spiral from delinquency to criminality. 

I am particularly interested to hear the testimony today of Mr. John Solberg, the Executive Director of Rawhide Boys Ranch in Wisconsin. The Rawhide Boys Ranch is a residential care center licensed with the state of Wisconsin to treat at risk youth 12 to 21 years of age. I am pleased that this Committee has an opportunity to hear about the important work underway in my home state of Wisconsin. 

No one questions the important role organizations like Rawhide Boys Ranch play in the lives of juvenile offenders. Alternatives to traditional incarceration are an important component of the juvenile justice system, offering youth offenders a path back into the community. Yet there continue to be cases where the crimes are so serious, or the risk to the community is so great, traditional incarceration or other substantial punishment may be the best course of action. 

As federal policymakers, we cannot presume to know what is in the best interest of every juvenile offender and local community. States should have the ability to address juvenile offenders in a variety of ways, such as faith-based programs, residential facilities, and detention centers when they deem them necessary. 

As we consider alternatives to incarceration, the proper application for institutionalization, and strategies to reduce recidivism, we should remember that state and local leaders hold a unique and critically important perspective on these difficult policy questions. We should move forward in a way that heeds their concerns and provides them with the flexibility they need to serve the best interests of juvenile offenders and protect their local communities. 

Mr. Chairman, thank you again for holding this hearing, and thank you to the witnesses for being with us this morning.

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