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Innovation Brief: Judicial Colloquies: Communicating with Kids in Court

Published Dec 12, 2013, Rosa Peralta and George Yeannakis

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Juvenile offenders are customarily required to comply with a lengthy list of rules imposed by a judge or juvenile probation counselor. Failures to comply, even those of a technical nature that result from lack of understanding, may be seen by a judge or probation counselor as willful failures and become aggravating factors at review or disposition hearings that push offenders deeper into the juvenile justice or adult court system. However, countless anecdotes describe youth coming out of court hearings confused about what had happened, unclear about the roles of the various adults in the courtroom and unsure of what was expected of them.

The Washington State Judicial Colloquies Project incorporated into the hearing process the judge’s use of colloquies that employ developmentally appropriate language. Use of colloquies improved young people’s comprehension of the conditions of pre-adjudication release and post-adjudication probation commonly ordered in Washington’s juvenile offender proceedings. The project also increased the awareness of court and juvenile justice stakeholders of the need for more developmentally appropriate language in juvenile court.


Supported by

Models for Change was a juvenile justice systems reform initiative supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.