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Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network (JIDAN)

Improving access to and quality of counsel representing youth in delinquency proceedings

Since the United States Supreme Court in In re Gault extended due process rights to children facing delinquency proceedings in 1967, juvenile justice systems across the country have struggled to incorporate Gault’s observance of due process rights while preserving the juvenile court’s commitment to rehabilitation. In the intervening decades since the Gault decision, report after report has revealed troubling gaps in the access to and quality of legal representation for indigent children across the country, showing that many children go through the justice system without the benefit of counsel, and the quality of representation children receive is, at best, uneven.
Across the country, effective juvenile representation is impeded by insidious systemic barriers. The juvenile defense bar is cripplingly under-funded, with staggering caseloads, low morale, inadequate access to experts, investigative resources, training, supervision, and support staff, and lack of pay parity with adult criminal defense attorneys or with juvenile prosecutors.

The need for highly competent, well-resourced defense counsel for every child accused of a crime has never been greater. Juvenile defense attorneys are a critical shield against unfairness and serve as a crucial counterweight in an adversarial system that can lead to harmful outcomes for young clients. Learn more.

The Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network (JIDAN) was launched in 2008 to engage leadership in targeted strategies to improve juvenile indigent defense policy and practice. The action network was an issue-focused forum for the development and exchange of ideas and strategies across states, and for sharing practical information and expertise in support of reform. The eight Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network states were: California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Teams from each participating action network states collaborate on the “strategic innovation” areas of:

  1. improving access to counsel and
  2. creating juvenile defense resource centers to build capacity for juvenile attorney.


The Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network was coordinated by the National Juvenile Defender Center, a member of the Models for Change National Resource Bank. To learn more about the network, view the FAQ or contact Rey Cheatham Banks at or 202-452-0010.

Supported by

Models for Change is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.