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Innovative Approaches to Juvenile Indigent Defense

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 1998
8 pages
Recognizing that juvenile defendants need and are entitled to effective legal representation, the American Bar Association and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention have collaborated to explore promising approaches that ensure quality legal services for young people.
Juvenile defendants require the active assistance of trained counsel to challenge prosecution evidence and to present evidence on their behalf. If charges against them are sustained, juvenile defendants need legal representation to ensure dispositional orders are fair and appropriated. If incarcerated, juvenile defendants need access to attorneys to help them respond to numerous postdispositional legal issues. The impact of inadequate legal representation on young people is significant. Youth represented by overworked attorneys frequently do not understand what is happening in court and feel their attorneys do not care about them. While substantial deficiencies in access to legal counsel and quality legal representation occur in juvenile courts, effective legal representation of young people does exist. High-quality defender-based programs that deliver good legal services to juveniles usually have one or more of the following characteristics: ability to limit or control caseloads, support for entering cases early, comprehensive initial and ongoing training and available resource materials, adequate nonlawyer support and resources, hands-on supervision of attorneys, and work environments that value and nurture juvenile court practice. Several initiatives in Maryland, New York, and the District of Columbia are profiled that incorporate these characteristics and that provide comprehensive and holistic legal representation for juveniles. 2 references, 2 figures, and 2 photographs

Date Published: December 1, 1998