Reconsidering Decision Making in the Juvenile Court System Through the Lens of our Racial History

On August 12, 2021, NJDC and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges hosted a discussion with noted professors Kristin Henning of Georgetown Law and Geoff Ward of Washington University in St. Louis, about the historical impact of racism and bias on the juvenile court system and the trauma that flows to youth of color as a result.

The historical structures of racism are threaded into our courts, and examining the history of race in juvenile courts will inform decisions about young people of color whose lives are impacted both by the history of racism and by the current context of racism in our nation. The lived experiences of youth of color demonstrate that racism and bias are in the foundation of the juvenile legal system, with disastrous consequences for young people. To truly contend with the impact of structural racism on youth in courts, juvenile court judges and decisionmakers should be armed with information about how racism was implanted in the system and how structural racism thrives today, and must have opportunities to acknowledge and grapple with the American legacy of racism that continues to drive the legal system.

At this virtual event, Professors Kristin Henning and Geoff Ward explored how racism and bias play out in the lives of youth of color, using real-life examples.

This discussion was the inaugural event to launch the Judicial Racial Justice Network (JRJN) – a six-month program for juvenile court judges who want to learn about the impact of racism on the juvenile legal system and develop strategies to address racial disparities in their respective jurisdictions.

Kristin Nicole Henning

Kristin Nicole Henning is the Blume professor of Law and Director of the Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative at Georgetown Law, where she supervises law students and represents youth accused of delinquency in the DC Superior Court. Professor Henning served as Georgetown Law’s Associate Dean for Clinics and Experiential Learning from 2017-2020. Professor Henning writes extensively about race, adolescence, and policing and has a forthcoming book, The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth. Professor Henning is a nationally recognized trainer and consultant on the intersection of race, adolescence and policing.

Geoff K. Ward

Geoff K. Ward is Professor of African and African-American Studies and faculty affiliate in the Department of Sociology and American Culture Studies Program at Washington University in St. Louis. His scholarship examines the racial politics of social control and the pursuit of racial justice, historically and today. He is the author of The Black Child-Savers: Racial Democracy and Juvenile Justice, an award-winning book on the rise, fall, and haunting remnants of Jim Crow juvenile justice.

File Type: www
Categories: Resource Library, Training, Video
Tags: Collaboration, Judicial Resources, Police, Racial Justice, Trauma