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Support for Prosecutors Who Work With Youth

Description

Overview

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) works to assist child victims by providing quality training and technical assistance to prosecutors involved in child abuse and welfare cases.

Cases involving the physical or sexual abuse of children are among the most difficult to prosecute. In addition to not wanting to retraumatize the child, several factors—such as difficulty eliciting testimony from young victims, a lack of forensic or corroborative evidence due to delayed disclosure, and the quality of the investigative child interview—affect a prosecutor’s decision to move forward with the case and the case outcome. OJJDP’s specialized training and technical assistance helps prosecutors overcome such obstacles.

Juvenile crime has serious implications for youth and communities. Prosecutors must make thoughtful, research-informed decisions to protect the public and offer youth opportunities for rehabilitation. They must also contend with challenges specific to juvenile court. Evolving victim rights laws, transfer to adult criminal court, and expanded juvenile court jurisdiction are some of the complex issues that juvenile prosecutors face.

OJJDP’s robust training curriculum helps prosecutors successfully balance youth justice with public safety.

Training and Technical Assistance

Child Abuse Training for Judicial and Court Personnel 

This program works to improve the judicial system's handling of child abuse, neglect and related cases, including those involving children who have been affected by opioid abuse or substance abuse. The program includes emphasis on the courts' role to address reasonable efforts to avoid unnecessary and prolonged foster care placement. In fiscal year (FY) 2021, OJJDP expects to award up to $3.2 million to support this training program.

Training and Technical Assistance for Child Abuse Prosecutors Program

This program aims to improve trainees' interactions with child victims, their child-interviewing techniques and investigative methods, and presentation of evidence in court. It also emphasizes interagency coordination. In FY 2019, the program supported 59 trainings on child abuse prosecution. More than 5,600 people attended the trainings. 

Addressing the Training Needs of Juvenile Prosecutors

Funding through this program helps states develop or expand training for juvenile prosecutors and their support staff. The program promotes training in trial techniques, procedural law, assessing risk and protective factors for youth, and determining youths’ readiness for rehabilitation.

OJJDP also funds a national training and technical assistance provider to help prosecutors lead juvenile justice system improvements within their communities. The training teaches prosecutors how to design and implement proven strategies to reduce offending and improve youth outcomes. In FY 2020, the Office awarded $1.2 million to support this program. 

Between June and September 2020, the National District Attorneys Association held a series of OJJDP-sponsored webinars for juvenile prosecutors. The Role of the Juvenile Prosecutor provided a historical context to juvenile court, highlighted the ethical obligations juvenile prosecutors have toward victims and offenders, and explained the rehabilitative nature of juvenile programming. 

Additional webinars included Principles of Child and Adolescent Development, Building Relationships Between Communities and Police: What Prosecutors Need to Know, and Substance Use Issues in Juvenile Court. More than 1,500 participants were trained through the webinar series. 

Funding

Between FY 2017 and 2020, OJJDP provided more than $10 million to build the capacity of juvenile prosecutors and attorneys who prosecute child welfare cases.

  • Fiscal Year 2020—$4.3 million
  • Fiscal Year 2019—$3.9 million
  • Fiscal Year 2018—$1.9 million
  • Fiscal Year 2017—$750,000

From the Field

OJJDP's training institute, The Role of the Juvenile Prosecutor, highlights the traditional role of prosecutors as well as contemporary issues in juvenile justice such as adolescent brain development, the impact of trauma on youth, key considerations in diversion, and child exploitation and trafficking.  

"Having experienced instructors who have dealt with a variety of cases, defense attorneys, and judges share their knowledge and expertise was very valuable," said Richard H., a deputy prosecuting attorney from Indiana, who participated in the institute. 

McKenzie K., an assistant prosecutor from Ohio, added, "I learned about ethics in law school, but it wasn’t specific to the job of a juvenile prosecutor. It was interesting to hear about ethics from a lens of what I do daily."

Resources

Fact Sheets:

Webinars: Training for Prosecutors

OJJDP and OJJDP-Sponsored Publications:

Statistical Briefing Book:

Date Created: October 28, 2020