HARRISBURG, PA - United States Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA) introduced legislation Friday to prevent and reduce juvenile crime and won praise today from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.
The Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education (PROMISE) Act, S. 435, would establish federal funding for community-based prevention and intervention programs.
"Research is clear that prevention and intervention works. Locking up more kids does not," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of PA. "Senator Casey gets it. The Youth PROMISE Act ensures that our government takes an effective approach to dealing with gangs and juvenile crime."
Last year the Prevention Research Center at Penn State released a study showing a significant return on the investment of grant funding by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency into prevention and mentoring programs. The Penn State study indicated that the commonwealth received a return of $300 million dollars on $60 million of grants to seven programs. The seven programs studied were Big Brothers Big Sisters, LifeSkills Training, Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care, Multisystemic Therapy, Functional Family Therapy, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Strengthening Families 10-14.
In contrast to the Casey bill, legislation was introduced last session in the state House of Representatives to create a criminal offense of "criminal gang activity."
"With Pennsylvania's ballooning corrections budget, the last thing we should be doing is funneling more young people into the prison system," Hoover said. "We appreciate Senator Casey's leadership, and we're grateful that he recognizes that it's time to be smart on crime."
While the Youth PROMISE Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last session, this is the first time it has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. Casey is joined on the bill by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME).