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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

Network goals and structure

The Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network (JIDAN) is a Models for Change-supported effort that was launched in 2008 to engage leadership in targeted strategies to improve juvenile indigent defense policy and practice. The action network is 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. Ultimately, the action network is working to create a leadership community that will guide other states and shape nationwide responses. Learn more

Strategic innovations

Teams from each participating action network states collaborate on “strategic innovation” areas. For the Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network, those areas of focus currently include 1) improving access to counsel and 2) creating juvenile defense resource centers to build capacity for juvenile attorney. Learn more

Sites and local partners

In addition to the four core Models for Change states, the Network includes four other states selected for their commitment to reform. The eight Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network states are: California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Learn more

Work highlights

To learn more about network activities and accomplishments visit our work highlights page.

For more information

The Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network is 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.