Policy Development: Educational Campaigns

Educational campaigns can be conducted unilaterally by juvenile defenders, in partnership with other stakeholders and/or community members, or on behalf of issues impacting juvenile defense and youth clients. Educational campaigns provide information, materials, and resources to policymakers and stakeholders.  Below are several examples of successful educational campaigns.

Washington State Judicial Colloquies Project

The Washington State Judicial Colloquies Project (Project) sought to help youth and their families better understand court proceedings and outcomes through addressing the language used in court-ordered restrictions and obligations placed on the youth. The hope was that improved understanding would lead to greater compliance and more positive youth outcomes. The Project Team, comprised of a diverse set of juvenile court stakeholders, re-wrote and then implemented colloquies using developmentally appropriate language at pre-adjudication release and post-adjudication probation hearings. The colloquies developed by the Project’s team were written at a sixth grade reading level and have a high readability score on the Flesch Reading Ease test. In comparison, the standardized orders used by Washington’s juvenile courts are written at twelfth grade reading level and have a very low readability score (i.e., the orders are difficult to read and best understood by university graduates.)

The use of the Project’s colloquies improved youth comprehension of the conditions of pre-adjudication release and post-adjudication probation commonly ordered in Washington’s juvenile delinquency proceedings. Before their use, youth understood only 30% of the conditions ordered. With the use of the Project’s colloquies, youth comprehension increased to 90%.  In addition to improving youth comprehension, the Project also increased stakeholder awareness of the importance of using developmentally appropriate language in juvenile court.

Florida’s Campaign to Decrease Waiver of Counsel

Juvenile defense stakeholders in Florida sought to educate juveniles about their right to an attorney and the role an attorney plays in their case.  They created a brochure, Charged with a Crime, discussing the importance of talking to an attorney and the range of collateral consequences that can result from a juvenile court guilty plea. The brochure was disseminated across the state for juvenile defenders to place in courtrooms and detention centers.  Juvenile defense leaders also coordinated juvenile defender training on the significance of the defense role in the courtroom and the serious collateral consequences their youth clients could face if they were not zealously represented.

Florida’s Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network (JIDAN) chose two of Florida’s 20 circuits with staggering waiver rates as pilot sites to monitor whether and how youth were truly being given a meaningful opportunity to consult with an attorney prior to waiver. Juvenile defense stakeholders monitored rates of waiver in those circuits and developed trainings and protocols on why children should not waive counsel and why consultation with an attorney prior to any waiver of counsel was paramount. Monitors also held meetings with judges to stress the importance of non-waiver. Educating and training defenders and judges had tremendous results, with waiver rates dropping from over 50% to well below 10% in both circuits.

Mikva Challenge, Cook County Juvenile Justice Youth Council: Expungement Application

With support from the Smart Chicago Collaborative, 25 Chicago high school students from the Mikva Challenge Juvenile Justice Council teamed up with a developer to create and launch a new Internet-based application—Expunge.io—that educates users about juvenile expungement in Illinois and connects them with legal counsel to assist with the expungement process. This application, launched in January 2014, helps users determine whether they are eligible for juvenile expungement, locate and retrieve arrest information and applicable paperwork, and connect to free legal resources in the community. The students used popular social media outlets including Vine, Twitter, and Facebook to publicize the launch of the application. While integrating technology into juvenile defense practice may appear daunting, this app was developed at very low cost and requires limited technical knowledge. Given its success, other youth advocacy organizations have begun to adapt this app in their jurisdictions. The launch of this app is a prime example of how creative community partnerships can be used to educate the community and make existing legal resources more accessible.

Ohio’s Campaign to Decrease Waiver of Counsel

Advocates in Ohio led an educational campaign to win supporters for a rule on waiver of counsel and to win compliance once the new rule went into effect. Juvenile defense attorneys compiled a packet of materials to educate decision makers about the rationale for a rule change. In particular, stakeholders made clear that existing Ohio rules did not meet national standards for juvenile defenders and were not in line with federal and state Supreme Court jurisprudence mandating that children have meaningful access to counsel. This educational campaign was significant in leading to rule changes in Ohio.

A second educational campaign ensured that the rule changes in Revised Rules of Juvenile Criminal Procedure were known, understood, and implemented uniformly across the state. Advocates from the Children’s Law Center, Inc. created a thorough implementation guide containing the rule, information about parent-child conflicts, a checklist for implementation, information about Ohio collateral consequences, a sample waiver form, and literature on the importance of meaningful consultation with counsel.

Colorado’s Excellence in Juvenile Defense Conference

In the wake of NJDC’s 2012 assessment of the Colorado juvenile defense system—which included a core recommendation for specialized juvenile defense training in the state—the Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition and the Office of the Alternate Defense Counsel started an annual “Excellence in Juvenile Defense Conference”—a two-day conference aimed at inspiring juvenile defenders to take their zealous advocacy to the next level and create community and support within the Colorado juvenile defense bar.

Illinois Right to Council Campaign

Advocates and stakeholders in Illinois formed the Right to Counsel Coalition (RTC Coalition) after the Illinois legislature created a statutory right to appointment of counsel at the time the juvenile petition is filed.  This 2009 legislation requires counsel to be given time to consult with minors who are detained prior to their first court appearance. The RTC Coalition assisted with implementation of this statute by identifying a dozen counties across the state with high rates of admission to detention based on non-violent offenses. The RTC Coalition then provided information, conducted telephone surveys of defense attorneys, and conducted site visits and defender trainings on detention advocacy in those 12 counties. The RTC Coalition education campaign expedited implementation of the new law.

Pennsylvania Model Expungement Policy

Pennsylvania juvenile advocates developed a statewide Model Expungement Policy to increase the expungement of juvenile records in Pennsylvania and establish uniformity across the state through county-based expungement initiatives. To assist with the filing of juvenile expungements under this model policy, Pennsylvania juvenile advocates identified pilot sites and recruited attorneys. This policy was enhanced by the publication of three expungement manuals geared towards juvenile defenders, youth, and the bench. This education campaign increased awareness of the existing expungement law.