May | June 2017

OJJDP Reflects on 50th Anniversary of In re Gault

photo of scales of justiceOn May 15, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in the In re Gault case that established the right to counsel for youth in delinquency cases. Despite progress made over the five decades since that decision, the promise of In re Gault has yet to become a reality for many of America’s youth. According to OJJDP’s 2003 Survey of Youth in Residential Placement, less than half of all youth in custody (42 percent) and just half of youth in detention facilities (50 percent) report that they have a lawyer.

Children who are not represented by qualified counsel often enter into poor plea agreements without a full understanding of the consequences. They may be transferred to adult criminal courts, with poor outcomes for both the youth and for public safety, and are vulnerable to violations of their rights to due process and equal protection. These negative outcomes disproportionately impact socioeconomically disadvantaged children and children of color.

Juvenile defenders play a critical role in ensuring fairness and equity for children, youth, and families, and in preserving public confidence in the juvenile justice system. OJJDP’s ongoing work to improve legal service delivery systems and build the capacity of the juvenile defense bar includes:

The Smart on Juvenile Justice: Enhancing Youth Access to Justice Initiative. This project provides funding to—

  • Improve access to high-quality juvenile defense.
  • Deliver national specialized training and technical assistance (TTA) to defenders, defender offices, states, tribes, and local governments. TTA is provided by the National Juvenile Defender Center.
  • Establish regional juvenile defender resource centers that leverage resources and collect and analyze data to measure the effectiveness of juvenile defense initiatives.
  • Help states to develop and implement model, juvenile-defense delivery systems.
  • Provide juvenile reentry services to youth who are reintegrating into their communities following secure confinement or out-of-home placement.

In fiscal year 2017, under this initiative, OJJDP anticipates funding a new national juvenile defense TTA provider, up to two additional resource centers, and up to five awards for direct reentry services to youth returning to their communities following confinement.


The Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program. As a member of the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, OJJDP is partnering with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to support collaborations between civil legal aid programs and public housing authorities. These initiatives support young peoples’ successful transition back to their families and communities following secure confinement or out-of-home placement by helping youth expunge or seal their juvenile records and assisting their efforts to overcome the collateral consequences that impede their access to adequate housing, educational advancement, and gainful employment.



Justice Department Convenes Meeting on Juvenile Right To Counsel

On May 15, 2017, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Office for Access to Justice hosted a panel presentation on juvenile defense at the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of In re Gault.

Mary Ann Scali, Executive Director of the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) spoke about the crucial role of highly trained, well-resourced juvenile defenders and highlighted some of NJDC’s work as OJJDP’s national training and technical assistance provider in the area of juvenile defense. Kim Tandy, Juvenile Defense Project Consultant to the Indiana Public Defender Council, spoke of Indiana’s outstanding statewide juvenile defense delivery system improvement efforts as a recipient of OJJDP’s Smart on Juvenile Justice Enhancing Youth Access to Justice planning and implementation grants. Other panelists included the DOJ Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Counsel, Winsome Gayle, and Shelby County (TN) Chief Public Defender Stephen Bush, who discussed their collaborative efforts to improve juvenile and adult defense in that jurisdiction.

OJP Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan R. Hanson provided opening remarks at the event.