U.S. states are rapidly removing Confederate statues, symbols of racial oppression. But there is another holdover from slavery that is prevalent in our society today — the routine use of shackling persons using handcuffs, leg irons and other hardware to confine individuals in the justice system.
On Nov. 7, the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) will hold a webinar focusing on the new Models For Change publication “Washington Judicial Colloquies Project: A Guide for Improving Communication and Understanding in Court.”
The guide, published by Washington State NJJN member TeamChild, offers advice on how professionals can better explain and describe the legal language used in court proceedings to young people. Working with the National Juvenile Defender Center and the Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network, TeamChild created a guide that suggests “colloquies,” pre-written language for judges and attorneys to use during young people’s first court appearances and further disposition hearings. The language is written at a 6th grade-level and designed to be easily understood by juveniles. In fact, according to the the guide, effective use of colloquies sometimes increased young people’s understanding of release and probation conditions from one third to 90 percent after hearings.
I attended the recent annual conference of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) to give the closing plenary about judicial leadership off the bench. Immediately before my closing I attended a workshop on truancy led by Judge Joan Byer of Louisville, Ky., and Dr. Shawn Marsh of the NCJFCJ. They offered some great ideas and further empowered me for my closing keynote speech on the importance of working together in the community to help our kids avoid the trauma of detention -- and it is traumatic despite what we may tell ourselves. Judge Byer asked how many in the audience are from jurisdictions that allow the detention of truant (status) youth. Most raised their hands.
13 percent of young people in detention facilities are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) according to a report called Hidden Injustice. The study done by National Juvenile Defender Center looks at how gay teens are treated in juvenile courts across the country. It profiles some common misconceptions about these kids and why the judicial system fails to meet the needs of this hidden population. http://www.njdc.info/pdf/hidden_injustice.pdf