Youth Defense System Standards
A specialized corps of zealous youth defenders can unlock young people’s constitutional right to freedom, liberty, and equal treatment and wield the power to challenge and dismantle institutionalized oppression. For youth defenders to effectively do this work, states must invest in well-resourced youth defense delivery systems to comply with their constitutional mandates. The National Youth Defense System Standards outline steps states must take to satisfy the minimum requirements of the U.S. Constitution to fully safeguard the rights of youth in the juvenile legal system.
Cause of Action: Fulfilling the Promise of Gault
Fifty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to provide youth with counsel in delinquency proceedings. Almost six decades later, an overwhelming majority of states have not met this obligation. Cause of Action: Fulfilling the Promise of Gault describes the constitutional obligation of states to ensure that young people have access to counsel and how the U.S. Department of Justice should use its authority to hold states accountable for that failure.
Defending Youth Searched at School
To kick off the 70th year of the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education and in recognition of the vast inequities that continue to plague the public school system and disproportionately harm Black, Latino/a, Native/Indigenous, and other youth, the Gault Center has released a new resource for youth defenders: Defending Youth Who Have Been Stopped, Searched, or Interrogated at School.
Defenders of Youth Rights
The Gault Center supports a community of youth defenders who dedicate their legal practice to defending children in delinquency court. To maintain, grow, and diversify the community, the Gault Center organizes and delivers innovative trainings; responds to requests for assistance and support; and facilitates innovation between youth defenders in urban, rural, remote, and tribal communities in every state and territory.
Young people in the legal system, who are disproportionately Black, Latino/a, and Indigenous, rarely receive the benefit of a childhood in which mistakes are made and then learned from and remedied. The Gault Center’s Racial Justice work is two-pronged: confronting bias and unequal treatment against young people as they navigate the court system and making an intentional effort to diversify the ranks of youth defenders.
Data & Research
Establishing effective youth defense services requires the development of youth defense data collection systems, a comprehensive research agenda, and state-by-state assessment of youth defense systems. Assessments provide a framework to identify gaps and strengths in youth defense services, amass information, and generate knowledge about the underlying condition of a youth defense system.
- Mid-Atlantic Youth Defender CenterDistrict of Columbia, Maryland, and VirginiaExplore
- South Central Youth Defender CenterArkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and TexasExplore
- Great Lakes Youth Defender CenterIllinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, and WisconsinExplore
- New England Youth Defender CenterConnecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and VermontExplore
- Northeast Youth Defender CenterDelaware, New Jersey, New York, and PennsylvaniaExplore
- Southern Youth Defender CenterAlabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and US Virgin IslandsExplore
- Southwest Youth Defender Center Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and UtahExplore
- Western Youth Defender Center Alaska, American Samoa, California, Guam, Hawaii, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, and WashingtonExplore
- North Central Youth Defender CenterIdaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and WyomingExplore
By The Numbers
The Gault Center has evaluated youth defense systems in 28 states, providing state leaders, justice stakeholders, and the public with a comprehensive understanding of the strengths and deficits of children’s defense and offering recommendations tailored to the state to enhance due process protections for children.
Through reports, issue briefs, policy statements, training curricula, and other publications, the Gault Center has developed a vast library of resources to improve the practice of lawyers representing young people.
Every year, the Gault Center hosts the Youth Defender Leadership Summit, the only national gathering of its kind to inspire and energize youth defenders from every state, and Summer Academy, a weeklong intensive training program for new and experienced frontline defenders. Throughout the year, we provide topic-specific training across the country.
Through policy development, litigation support, training, and the assessment and evaluation of juvenile court systems, the Gault Center has been at the forefront of the movement to ensure young people have rights, representation, and a voice in juvenile court.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE SPECIALIZATION
Cultivating a community of defenders who represent youth by growing expertise, leadership, and training opportunities
YOUTH RIGHTS AND EQUITY
Tearing down structural racism and confronting bias and unequal treatment of children in the court system
Ensuring children’s right to counsel is achieved in justice reform efforts from the local to the federal level
YOUTH, FAMILY, AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS
Engaging youth and their circles of support to strengthen defenders and communities, while building bridges to common ground and collaboration
Over half the states in the U.S. do not set a minimum age of prosecution in juvenile court. And although common sense and international standards compel removal of younger children from the juvenile legal system, these states have yet to heed the call.
As early as 1948 the U.S. Supreme Court noted the heightened vulnerability of youth in the interrogation room when in Haley v. Ohio, they stated…
About This Issue Representing children in juvenile court is a complex and specialized area of practice. It requires the integration…
While the Gault Center’s work focuses on the representation of youth in the delinquency system, many defenders must represent youth in both adult and juvenile court, as the number of youth tried as adults has increased drastically over the past two decades.
Latest From the Gault Center
A specialized corps of zealous youth defenders can unlock young people’s constitutional rights and wield the power to challenge and dismantle institutionalized oppression. For youth defenders to effectively do this work, states must invest in well-resourced youth defense delivery systems to comply with their constitutional mandates. The National Youth Defense System Standards outline steps states must take to satisfy the minimum requirements of the U.S. Constitution to fully safeguard the rights of youth in the juvenile legal system.
Over the past few months, we’ve been rebuilding our resource library to make it easier for defenders to find what they are looking for in our library. We have now finished our rebuild, and we are happy to announce that the new Resource Library is now live!
by Kristina “KK” Kersey, Sr. Youth Defense Counsel We broadcast Summit from Puerto Rico so we could dance bombas,…
In this piece, HyeJi speaks directly to adolescents, to provide young people with empowering information to make change.
Advocating for children to be treated like children What’s At Stake Children are different than adults. Despite this self-evident truth,…
Feel good giving. The Gault Center is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization #02-0620456, so your donation is tax deductible. With your support no child will have to stand alone.
Join our team
Ready to make a difference? There are several avenues of engagement: Youth/Defense Policy Council, Fellowships, Law Clerk Positions, Policy & Administrative Internships
Do you have questions? Would you like to learn more or register for a training? We want to hear from you.
Learning opportunities are unlimited with the Gault Center. You will find conferences, leadership summits, certifications, on-demand training, and racial justice tools