Promoting justice for all children

NJDC Statement on COVID-19 Pandemic

On April 2, 2020, the National Juvenile Defender Center released a statement calling on all decisionmakers in the juvenile legal system to reduce their contact with youth at every point, to interrupt the exponential growth of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read NJDC’s statement here.


Access Denied: A National Snapshot of States’ Failure to Protect Children’s Right to Counsel

Released on the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision In re Gault, NJDC’s new report reveals that nearly every state falls short of its constitutional obligation to provide effective lawyers for youth. Based on statutory analysis and interviews with juvenile defenders in every state, the Snapshot exposes gaps in procedural protections for children — gaps that perpetuate the over-criminalization of youth, racial and economic disparities, and the fracturing of families and communities. Learn more here.

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In re Gault

Fifty years ago, the United States Supreme Court affirmed that youth in America’s juvenile courts are entitled to many of the same rights as adults, including the right to counsel, the right to notice of the charges against them, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to confront their accusers. This printed version of the case highlights some of the decision’s most important points.

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NJDC Believes Black Lives Matter

The National Juvenile Defender Center joins all those mourning the tragic murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Cornelius Frederick, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black people across the United States.  Our work and lives as advocates for youth place us on the front lines, where we can and must seek justice, increase liberation, and demand an end to the entrenched racism that puts our young clients’ lives at risks. We must make clear that we stand for a better time than now.
The work of justice has always felt urgent. It is, indeed, a matter of life and death. Read our full statement here.

Physicians Call for Release of Detained Youth During COVID-19 Pandemic

Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform call for the return of children from juvenile justice facilities to their homes as COVID-19 quickly turns to shelter in place quarantine. Read their statement here and press release here.


Ensuring Access: A Policy Advocacy Toolkit

Cover shot of "Ensuring Access" showing a youth person and an adult looking at something together

Ensuring Access is a toolkit designed to help defenders, advocates, state legislators, and other policymakers who want to change their local laws and court rules to ensure children have the access to counsel they are guaranteed under the Constitution. The Toolkit incorporates the five issue areas and related recommendations from Access Denied and provides advocates and policymakers with example statutes and rules from across the country, research supporting policy reform, and sample messaging documents to support reform efforts.

National Juvenile Defender Center 

NJDC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting justice for all children by ensuring excellence in juvenile defense. Through community building, training, and policy reform, we provide national leadership on juvenile defense issues with a focus on curbing the deprivation of young people’s rights in the court system. Our reach extends to urban, suburban, rural, and tribal areas, where we elevate the voices of youth, families, and defenders to create positive case outcomes and meaningful opportunities for children. We also work with broad coalitions to ensure that the reform of juvenile courts includes the protection of children’s rights — particularly the right to counsel.



Broken Contracts

Though juvenile courts process more than 850,000 juvenile delinquency cases every year, no comprehensive data exists regarding how many young people are represented by public defenders or contract, appointed, or assigned counsel. While talented lawyers practice in each type of defense system, the resources and quality of representation can vary greatly. This report and toolkit examine ways to create greater support for and standardization of juvenile defense contract counsel systems to help strengthen young people’s voices and rights in the legal system.


In re Gault Research Collection

In collaboration with the Georgetown Law Equal Justice Library, NJDC launched the In re Gault research collection, including the Gault footnote bibliography project, reports and training materials on children’s right to counsel, audio-visual material of the Gault family and decision coverage, and court documents that trace the case’s evolution from Gila County, Arizona, to the nation’s highest court. Visit the collection here.