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Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office Juvenile Sentencing Advocacy Project

NCJ Number
Kelly D. Johnson Ph.D.
Date Published
May 2001
6 pages
Given the vast increase in the number of juveniles being tried as adults and the growing evidence that the adult system may be ill-equipped to maximize the youth's potential for rehabilitation, the Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office established the Juvenile Sentencing Advocacy Project to develop strength-based sentencing plans that increase client access to effective programs.
The central component of the project is the development of a sentencing plan that capitalizes on a provision that permits judges in adult courts to sentence transferred juveniles to the State's Department of Juvenile Justice, thereby providing for the effective rehabilitation of youth in a system that was designed to recognize and respond to the developmental needs of adolescents. The project is designed to permit investigation, assessment, and case planning that focuses on the unique life circumstances, levels of mastery and competence, and treatment needs of younger clients. The program's structure reflects many of the best practices encouraged by The Sentencing Project (Young, 2000), a project whose commission identified essential elements of strong and effective public defender programs that serve youth prosecuted as adults. After receiving notice that the State's attorney intends to file a juvenile case in the adult court system, the project attorney screens the case for eligibility and then assigns the case to a project social worker. In collaboration with the assigned defense counsel, the social worker interviews the youth, investigates his/her background, and begins to formulate a sentencing plan. The underlying premise of the sentence planning process is that juveniles are inherently different from adults. The project's innovative focus presents the whole child to the court and takes a proactive approach in developing sentencing plans that offer the opportunity for youth to experience positive, long-term change. A preliminary assessment of the project shows its significant potential to influence sentencing decisions for transferred youth. 12 references