This assessment provides Missouri policymakers and leaders in juvenile defense services with information about whether juveniles have timely and meaningful access to qualified counsel in delinquency proceedings; identifies systemic barriers to quality representation; highlights best practices; and presents recommendations and implementation strategies for improving Missouri's juvenile indigent defense delivery system.
The study underlying this report identified three major concerns about Missouri's defense services for juveniles. First, the indigent defense system is in crisis, enduring at least two decades of heavy caseloads and inadequate resources for mandated services. Consequently, youth are systematically denied counsel throughout the State. Second, there is an imbalance between acknowledging and protecting the basic due process rights for juveniles and adjudicating juveniles delinquent in order to obtain services or otherwise intervene in the lives of juveniles and their families. Third, the structure of Missouri's juvenile court creates conflicting roles. The role of the deputy juvenile officer (Missouri's equivalent of probation officer) and legal officer (Missouri's equivalent of prosecutor) is to challenge the judiciary regarding the fair implementation of due process, supervision, and the requirement of impartiality. The role of the deputy juvenile officers may also contribute to high rates of youth waiving their right to counsel. Findings identify barriers to accessing counsel and barriers to effective practice among attorneys defending youth at each critical stage of court proceedings. The ten core recommendations from the study are intended to ensure timely appointment of counsel; a reduction in waiver of counsel; representation at all critical stages; allocation of sufficient resources; strengthening of monitoring and oversight; data collection; recognition of juvenile defense as a specialized practice; reduction of youth in the adult system; adoption of practice standards; and reform in the role of the deputy juvenile officer. 293 notes
National Juvenile Defender Ctr (NJDC)
1350 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 304, Washington, DC 20036, United States
United States of America