DC Lawyers for Youth seeks to improve the DC juvenile justice system by advocating for reforms that promote positive youth development, effective legal representation, and supportive relationships between the community and DC’s youth.
We believe that true positive change cannot occur if we limit our view of the juvenile justice system to the time when a child gets arrested to the time he gets released from the custody of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) or completes his or her probation. As a result, we take a holistic approach to improving the juvenile justice system organizing our efforts by the three phases of the system: prevention, representation, and rehabilitation.
- Investing early in our youth will make it less likely that they will get arrested. This is the best outcome for our youth and all the system’s stakeholders.
- Lowering arrest rates will reduce the volume that the courts and social services have to process, freeing up resources and enabling our courts and social service programs to focus on those youth most in need.
- Improving the quality of representation for youth begins with a recognition that the juvenile defender is both attorney and social worker and ensuring that all juvenile defenders receive the support necessary to effectively play both roles.
- Focusing on this dual role of effective juvenile defenders will not only protect the constitutional rights of our youth recognized in In re Gault, but also ensure that those youth most in need will receive a plan for services that is tailored to the unique needs of the individual.
- Improving the services provided to our youth who are subject to court or DYRS supervision will ensure that the rehabilitative goal of the juvenile justice system is realized.
- Investing in effective re-entry programs will help rehabilitated youth from falling back into the grasp of the court system.