On Thursday, the ACLU, in conjunction with the Peace Alliance, the Student Peace Alliance, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, GlobalGrind.com and Ben & Jerry’s, held an event on Capitol Hill to press the case for congressional passage of the Youth PROMISE Act (Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education) – H.R. 1064/S. 435. This bipartisan legislation would address problems of gang involvement and youth violence through innovative and evidence-based community approaches, as opposed to the tired old routine of harsh sentences and long stints behind bars.
Hundreds of congressional staff members – over 700 to be exact – turned out to learn more about this positive, forward-looking legislation, as well as to get a free scoop of Ben & Jerry’s. Their sponsorship of this event unquestionably helped to lead to the stellar turnout. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee and the sponsor of the Youth PROMISE Act, also spoke about the legislation and what it would mean for vulnerable young people in communities, both large and small, across this country. Pursuing cost-effective, proactive, community-centered efforts that seek to engage young people before they become involved in a cycle of violence and incarceration is particularly important given the current state of the economy and record budget shortfalls.
Thursday’s event, thanks in large part to the support and generosity of Ben & Jerry’s, was a terrific success. However, this legislation will not pass its final legislative hurdles without your support. Please join with the ACLU in urging congressional passage this year of the Youth PROMISE Act. Some things are just too important to put off until next year.