Delaware: An Assessment of Access to Counsel and Quality of Representation in Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings (2017)

NJDC’s expert investigators visited Delaware’s three counties, where they conducted interviews with ODS staff and other juvenile court stakeholders, observed delinquency proceedings, and obtained information and reports from the Delaware Family Courts. Investigators also completed a statutory review of the state’s court rules, laws, and proposed legislation.

It was readily apparent that those responsible for dispensing justice in Delaware’s juvenile court system are firmly committed to fairness and helping youth access opportunities. However, there was no shared agreement among stakeholders of what effective juvenile public defense should look like, nor a clear articulation of how strong representation for youth supports the goals of the juvenile justice system.

Investigators concluded the quality of representation falls short of fulfilling the constitutional guarantees of due process for children in court. Delaware is one of a few states in the nation that imposes monetary bail on children, and one of the only states that allows for bail and detention hearings to be conducted via videoconference. And Delaware Family Courts persist in applying mandatory minimum sentences to some youth, despite research supporting developmentally informed, individualized justice for children. Serious racial inequities exist at all stages of delinquency proceedings across the state, with Black and brown children receiving harsher treatment at every decision point. Punitive practices like these make the need for zealous defenders essential.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Assessment, Gault Center Publications, Resource Library
Tags: Access to Counsel, Quality of Representation, Youth Defense Systems