Juvenile Indigent Defense

Speaking for the Children: A Hard Look at the State of Juvenile Defense Across the U.S.

In the U.S., young people in trouble with the law have the right to quality legal counsel, so why is the reality playing out unequally across the country? This series of articles from JJIE looks at juvenile public defense – when it works, and why it doesn’t – and includes stories from youth and families navigating the system with and without legal representation.

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Facing Bittersweet Moments and Hard Truths as NYC Juvenile Public Defender


As a Public defender with the Legal Aid Society’s Adolescent Intervention and Diversion Project, Donna Henken works with 13- to 15-year-olds charged with felony crimes. These adolescents are known as juvenile offenders and they are tried in adult criminal court rather than family court. Henken’s clients struggle with the same issues as juveniles in the family court system. According to the Legal Aid Society, about 20 percent of these youth have experience with the foster care system. Almost two-thirds have special-education needs and about 25 percent of them have significant mental health issues that require ongoing care. Continue Reading →

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