Issue Brief: Using Developmentally Appropriate Language to Communicate with Court-Involved Youth

For any young person, navigating the juvenile delinquency process can be daunting. Youth are required to understand, make decisions, and act on their rights and responsibilities in court. Yet courtinvolved youth are likely to face challenges that impact their ability to understand and participate in juvenile court. The legal jargon, abstract language, and complex terminology frequently used in the courtroom can be incomprehensible, especially for young people. Also, traditional courtroom dynamics make it difficult for youth to speak up when they do not understand a question or terminology. Not only does the use of complex language have an impact on a young person’s ability to meaningfully participate and understand the juvenile court process, but it also affects a young person’s perception of fairness. Given these realities, it is imperative that juvenile defenders, juvenile court judges, and other delinquency stakeholders improve communication with youth by using developmentally appropriate language throughout the delinquency process to ensure youth are meaningfully engaged, understand the process, and can access the constitutional protections to which they are entitled.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Gault Center Publications, Practice Tool, Resource Library
Tags: Adolescent Development, Disabilities, Language