The National Juvenile Defender Center conducts state-based assessments
of access to and quality of juvenile defense counsel. The assessments
provide comprehensive examinations of the systemic and institutional
barriers that prevent lawyers from providing adequate legal services
to indigent children within a particular state legal system. In
addition to gathering general data and information about the structure
of the juvenile indigent defense system, assessments examine issues
related to the timing of appointment of counsel, the frequency with
which children waive their right to counsel and under what conditions
they do so, resource allocation, attorney compensation, supervision
and training, and access to investigators, experts, social workers
and support staff. Assessments also highlight promising approaches
and innovative practices within the state and offer recommendations
to improve weak areas.
These reports are part of a nationwide effort to improve juvenile
indigent defense across the country. Defenders, judges, legislatures,
bar associations, and others have acted to implement recommendations
from their respective state assessments, significantly improving
the access to and quality of representation for children. Preliminary
work on assessments in new states is always underway.
Each of the assessments we have published thus far is available
here, along with related information and media attention.