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Seven Ways to Improve Juvenile Indigent Defense

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2012
7 pages
This policy update presents seven "promising ideas" for reform that can improve justice-involved youths' access to quality indigent defense.
The seven categories of reform recommendations are training, standards and accountability, communication and collaboration, tools and resources, funding, right to counsel, and advocacy. Recommendations for training are to train attorneys regularly under a set of minimum training standards, and teach attorneys to train their peers. Regarding standards and accountability, recommendations are to establish standards for ethics and quality and to use standards to evaluate attorney performance. Recommendations for improving communication and collaboration are to form a professional organization; develop partnerships; and establish a "listserv," which enables attorneys across a State to share ideas and advice. Recommendations for tools and resources are to create a practice manual, develop a "collateral consequences" checklist, and educate youth and families about their rights in the juvenile justice system. Recommendations for funding are to provide training scholarships and to equalize pay among prosecuting and defense attorneys working juvenile and adult cases. Recommendations for the right to counsel are to declare all juveniles indigent for purposes of appointment of counsel and to ensure youth are represented at critical stages in case processing and when their educational rights are at stake. Recommendations for advocacy are to hold judges accountable for case dispositions; clarify court procedure so as to ensure efficiency and due process; streamline expungement of juvenile records; restrict the shackling of youth in court; limit strip searches; and prohibit ex parte (unilateral) communication with judges. 28 notes