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Ambassadors for Racial Justice

A program for defenders committed to challenging racial injustice in the juvenile legal system

The Ambassadors for Racial Justice (ARJ) program is for defenders committed to challenging racial injustice in the juvenile legal system. The Gault Center and the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative developed this program to equip and inspire frontline youth defenders to assume leadership roles in developing strategies to combat racial injustice in their respective jurisdictions and courthouses and throughout the country.  The 12-month-program:

  1. encourages and supports defenders to challenge racial injustices through legal advocacy,
  2. engages defenders in systemic and policy reform, and
  3. equips defenders to facilitate difficult conversations about race. By creating a community of youth defenders committed to racial justice to share their challenges and successes, ARJ also hopes to attract and retain a cadre of diverse attorneys in the fight for youth justice.

The Ambassadors for Racial Justice Program is limited to ten attorneys per year. Applications are released during the summer and are due in early September.

In order to participate, defenders must:

  • Carry a significant youth defense caseload in their jurisdiction, or otherwise demonstrate current experience, commitment, and engagement in youth justice reform, and strong partnership with youth defenders (e.g., youth appellate defenders youth policy experts in defender offices).
  • Demonstrate a commitment to expressed-interest advocacy on behalf of all youth.
  • Commit to completing one capstone project of their own design. Examples of projects may include:
    • Establishing a community partnership with youth defenders to advance racial justice locally;
    • Hosting/leading a training series related to racial justice for youth defenders and/or other decision makers in their local jurisdiction;
    • Spearheading legislative reform in their local jurisdiction or state;
    • Preparing a campaign related to racial equity and youth rights; or
    • Creating an internship program that encourages diverse college/law students to pursue careers in youth defense work.

Timeline for Annual AJR Application Process

  • Open application cycle —July 1
  • Application deadline—September 1
  • Decisions announced –October 30
  • Orientation and Leadership Retreat—January MLK Weekend

Expected Outcomes  

  • Empower youth defenders with the training, resources, and information to fight racialized over-policing, over-criminalization, and school exclusion through case litigation and systemic policy.
  • Grow the number of youth defenders and youth advocates equipped to train other defenders on raising race and facilitating difficult conversations about race.
  • Raise the level of practice among youth defenders committed to racial justice across the country and improve outcomes for Black, Latino/a, and Indigenous youth nationally.
  • Embolden a group of well-trained, diverse youth defenders and youth advocates who may go on to become policy advocates, judges, and legislators, to represent diverse viewpoints, empower diverse communities, and systemically reform our juvenile legal system.