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Juvenile Defense Attorneys: A Critical Protection Against Injustice

Published Apr 14, 2014, National Juvenile Defender Center

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Stakes are high when youth come into contact with the juvenile justice system.  When a child’s liberty and freedom are at risk, meaningful access to legal advice and the counsel of a juvenile defense attorney is absolutely essential for the justice systems to operate fairly and humanely.

When a child enters the court process, their juvenile defender is the only person involved who is singularly devoted to defending a child’s expressed legal interests.  Engaging with the justice system can have lifelong consequences for youth, and juvenile defenders are a critical safeguard.

Despite their importance, the obstacles juvenile defenders face and the best practices they follow are often not fully understood. This paper explores the challenges and offers insights into how juvenile justice systems can improve the ways they uphold the due process rights of youth.

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