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Defend Children: A Blueprint for Effective Juvenile Defender Services

NCJ Number
Date Published
National Juvenile Defender Center
This report by the National Juvenile Defender Center presents seven major recommendations for providing effective legal defense services to juveniles, with action suggestions for achieving each of the seven recommendations.
First, champion, uphold, and fund children’s right to counsel. Among the suggestions for implementing this recommendation is to support, fund, and expand access to counsel to include post-disposition representation and reentry planning. Second, ensure meaningful access to counsel throughout the delinquency process. Among the suggestions for implementing this recommendation is to appoint counsel for all children without requiring a determination of indigence. Third, implement strong, well-resourced, and specialized juvenile defense systems. One suggestion for achieving this is to ensure that the method of attorney appointment is fair and does not create any conflicts of interest. Fourth, eliminate racial and ethnic disparities. One suggestion for implementing this recommendation is to comply with existing best practices and resources to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in the delivery of defense services. Fifth, attract and retain new and diverse talent to the field of juvenile defense. One suggestion for achieving this is to support the expansion of public and private law school clinical and experiential learning. Sixth, protect the rights of youth who face additional discrimination and violation of their constitutional rights. One suggestion for achieving this is to ensure meaningful access to counsel for American Indian and Alaska Native Youth. Seventh, fund and implement mechanisms to collect data, conduct assessments and court observations, and initiate evaluation and research. One suggestion is to develop juvenile defense indicators targeted to measure system performance.
Date Created: November 13, 2016