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Innovation Brief: Model Juvenile Court Colloquies

Published Dec 12, 2013, National Juvenile Defender Center

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Despite the rehabilitative nature we ascribe to the juvenile justice system, research indicates that when young people are in court, surrounded by authority figures, they are often frightened or intimidated. Much of what is being said about them, to them, or in connection with their case, is spoken in complex legal terms and complicated courtroom jargon. It is no wonder they may not really understand what is happening and what is expected of them, thus reducing their ability to be compliant with the court’s order. Using developmental and age appropriate language can dramatically increase a child’s likelihood of success. To improve youths’ understanding of court processes and their obligations, juvenile defenders involved in the Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network (JIDAN) developed model judicial colloquies that adopt more developmentally appropriate language.

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Models for Change is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.