Tenet 5: Ensure Access to Quality Legal Counsel
Youth have a constitutional right to effective legal assistance.[i] This is essential to ensuring a fair court process, as well as reducing unnecessary detention, transfer to adult court, and incarceration. Yet young people often face court hearings without the assistance of competent counsel, or make uninformed decisions to waive their right to counsel altogether due to immaturity, anxiety, and pressures to resolve their cases quickly. Jurisdictions can protect the rights of young people by requiring early and continuous assignment of counsel through post-adjudication; providing specialized training to defenders, prosecutors and judges on adolescent development, mental health, special education and immigration law; requiring that attorneys have manageable caseloads and adequate resources to provide quality legal representation; and partnering lawyers with social workers to ensure that youth are connected to appropriate services.
- NJDC’s Ten Core Principles for Providing Quality Delinquency Representation through Public Defense Delivery Systems