Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $400,000)
The primary objective of this project is to ensure that youth involved in Philadelphia’s juvenile justice system have access to high-quality, specialized, culturally competent, community oriented legal representation. This program is designed to support two interrelated goals: 1. Restructure the Defender Association of Philadelphia’s Children and Youth Justice Unit, by recruiting and retaining a core group of highly skilled Defenders who specialize in the representation of youth, providing youth Defenders with intensive and highly specialized training, and deploying a vertical representation model; and, 2. Expand the Junior Defender community education program so ‘Junior Defenders’ may serve as peer navigators for youth, develop age appropriate and culturally competent materials to facilitate youthful arrestees’ increased understanding of court processes and court-ordered conditions, and with the assistance and support of Defender’s Director of Training, facilitate specialized training events for attorneys representing youth throughout the city and state. These funds will enable youth to be represented consistently by the same attorney as their case proceeds through the system and for attorneys to develop the specialized skills they need to represent young people facing increasingly more serious and legally complicated charges. This continuous model of representation will lead to more trusting individual attorney client relationships, more manageable case and workloads for attorneys, and reduce attrition. The additional specialization training will better prepare clients to successfully litigate young people’s cases. Additionally, the Junior Defender program will improve Defender’s relationship with young people in the community, build a pipeline for young people interested in pursuing the defense of youth as a career and improved case outcomes. Communication materials that facilitate young people’s understanding of court ordered conditions will foster increased understanding and decrease technical violations of conditions of release or supervision. The program will also lead to increased community understanding of the youth justice system and build relationships with impacted communities so they and their loved ones can take advantage of supports Defender offers, like expungement services.