Public Defense Improvement Program

Resources for Public Defense Representation of Juveniles Facing Criminal Charges


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Check out the video published by the National Juvenile Defender Center on August 12, 2021

Reconsidering Decision-Making in the Juvenile Court System Through the Lens of Our Racial History: A Discussion with Professors Kristin Henning and Geoff Ward.

On August 12, 2021, NJDC and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges hosted a discussion with noted professors Kristin Henning of Georgetown Law and Geoff Ward of Washington University in St. Louis, about the historical impact of racism and bias on the juvenile court system and the trauma that flows to youth of color as a result.

The historical structures of racism are threaded into our courts, and examining the history of race in juvenile courts will inform decisions about young people of color whose lives are impacted both by the history of racism and by the current context of racism in our nation. The lived experiences of youth of color demonstrate that racism and bias are in the foundation of the juvenile legal system, with disastrous consequences for young people. To truly contend with the impact of structural racism on youth in courts, juvenile court judges and decisionmakers should be armed with information about how racism was implanted in the system and how structural racism thrives today, and must have opportunities to acknowledge and grapple with the American legacy of racism that continues to drive the legal system.

At this virtual event, Professors Kristin Henning and Geoff Ward explored how racism and bias play out in the lives of youth of color, using real-life examples. This discussion was the inaugural event to launch the Judicial Racial Justice Network (JRJN) – a six-month program for juvenile court judges who want to learn about the impact of racism on the juvenile legal system and develop strategies to address racial disparities in their respective jurisdictions.  Video exitingwebsite | Resources exitingwebsite

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