Through systemic reform efforts, The Gault Center seeks to disrupt the harmful impacts of the legal system on children, families, and communities; decriminalize adolescence, particularly where youth of color are treated disparately; and ensure the constitutional protections of counsel for all young people in court.
The Gault Center partners with defenders, governments, philanthropic foundations, and advocacy organizations at the local, state, and national levels in a variety of ways to effectuate reforms that strengthen youth defense systems and encourage developmentally appropriate practices.
Policy advocacy can take many forms:
- Educational campaigns can be conducted unilaterally by youth defenders, in partnership with other stakeholders and/or community members, or on behalf of issues impacting youth defense and youth clients. Educational campaigns provide information, materials, and resources to policymakers and stakeholders.
- Court rule reform requires youth defenders to collaborate with like-minded reformers and to engage unlikely allies. Court rules can address problematic aspects of juvenile court practice, procedure, evidence, and process.
- Youth defenders engaged in legislative change often spend as much time beating back punitive legislation as they do supporting developmentally appropriate, constitutionally rooted reforms. Successful legislative reform requires youth defenders to seek broad-based support and develop collaborations across political aisles.
- When youth defenders are invited to testify before commissions, task forces, legislative bodies, and the like, we are able to give voice to the rights of our youth clients in a formal and powerful manner.
- As a policy and educational tool, The Gault Center will write letters to legislators, courts, and other regulatory authorities to educate them about the potential gains or pitfalls of reform efforts they are considering.
- Courts can make sweeping changes to practices and procedures by issuing administrative policies that judges within that court system must follow. Educating Chief Judges about reforms that promote due process and fair treatment of children can be a powerful force for change.
- Establishing policy initiatives is evidence of the youth defense community’s creativity and resourcefulness. Policy initiatives targeted at specific issues or areas of practice allows the youth defense community to effectuate reform across a broad range of practice and policy issues.
The Gault Center is committed to helping state systems and lawyers do better for all youth, by lifting up children’s defense and due process protections.