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OJJDP News @ a Glance

This issue highlights OJJDP’s fiscal year 2023 funding awards, OJJDP Tribal consultations, a panel discussion on advocacy with system-involved youth and parents, and the Preventing Youth Hate Crimes and Identity-Based Bullying Virtual Symposium.
Message From the Administrator: A New Year Brings New Opportunities for Justice
OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan - News @ a Glance

Racial Bias in the Juvenile Justice System Has Lasting Impacts, OJJDP Administrator Tells Youth Defenders

Photo of moderator and panelists at a Youth Defender Leadership Summit discussion
Kristin Henning (far left), Director of the Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative at Georgetown Law, moderated the panel. Panelists were (from left to right) Dr. Edward Mulvey, former director of the Law and Psychiatry Program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Dr. Linda Sprague Martinez, former chair of the Macro Social Work Practice Department at the Boston University School of Social Work; and OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan.

OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan was a featured panelist at the Youth Defender Leadership Summit in Charlotte, NC, on October 13, where she highlighted disparities faced by youth of color when they encounter the justice system, the lasting harm caused by detention, and the need to serve youth in their home communities. The panel, “Exposing Racial Bias and Systemic Harms of the Juvenile Legal System to Fight for the Liberation of All Youth,” was part of a national training event for youth defenders and advocates, sponsored by The Gault Center

Youth of color experience racially disparate treatment at every stage of the juvenile justice system, Administrator Ryan stressed. They are more likely than their white peers to be arrested, referred to adult court, and placed in out-of-home facilities. The root cause of these disparities is a pattern of systemic disinvestment in communities of color, she said. Children most in need of support—including those with mental health conditions—are disproportionately caught up in the juvenile legal system. 

Community-based programs help to protect youth from many of the consequences of incarceration, the Administrator said, including trauma caused by harsh punishments and sexual victimization, and a lack of academic and vocational support. Data show that the juvenile legal system fails to support youth adequately and does not promote positive behavior change, she continued. Serving children at home, with their families and in their communities is one of OJJDP’s three priorities because offering youth a range of community-based services is the best way to foster both youth well-being and public safety.

The Youth Defender Leadership Summit brings together hundreds of youth defense attorneys and advocates to develop and share strategies for improving their defense of youth rights. Four OJJDP grantees made presentations at the summit. The Gault Center serves as the training and technical assistance provider for the Enhancing Youth Defense program. Founded in 1997 to build the capacity of youth defense lawyers and ensure that every child has an attorney with specialized training in juvenile law, the center was previously called the National Juvenile Defender Center.  

OJJDP’s Enhancing Youth Defense program provides support to states and localities to improve the quality and availability of legal services, respond to gaps in practice, and ensure that youth can access resources that address the collateral consequences of justice system involvement. Additional details can be found in OJJDP’s Improving Youth Defense In Focus fact sheet.

A May 2023 blog post by Administrator Ryan describes OJJDP’s effort to encourage and support states to provide a youth defender for every young person who needs one. 

Date Created: December 12, 2023