The Juvenile Justice Center (JJC) was founded in 1998 with a grant from the US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs. It is now supported by Suffolk University Law School, government and private foundation grants. The JJC mission is to provide vigorous, high-quality representation for children in the juvenile court system, using a multi-disciplinary approach that includes supportive social services and education advocacy. This approach to delinquency defense increases positive outcomes for court-involved youth. The Center also monitors and actively advocates on state policies that affect how youth are sent to court and the consequences of their court involvement.
Theory and practice
The clinical program at the JJC provides Suffolk Law students with practical, in-court experience. By combining theory and practice, students learn the historical development of juvenile justice law in a classroom component, while acquiring courtroom skills, experiencing client/attorney relationships, learning adolescent development theory, and working with the agencies that treat the JJC's young clients.
The JJC handles 500 to 600 delinquency cases annually. Two JJC attorneys supervise Suffolk Law students representing youth in court, as well as provide direct representation to juveniles from arraignment through disposition. The JJC approaches cases by completely exploring and handling all aspects of each, including investigating incident scenes, motion practice, frequent client contact, and strong advocacy at the adjudicatory and dispositional stages of all proceedings.
The involvement of a young person in the juvenile justice system is often a symptom of that youth's reaching out for help to deal with problems they face with peers, family, and their community. The case worker assists attorneys and law students in interviewing youth and their families to determine their needs and strengths. The case worker makes referrals to services which assist youth in maintaining a sense of structure and stability in their lives.
Many youth facing charges in Massachusetts are at risk of temporary suspension or permanent exclusion from public school. Education is central to the meaning of a real "second chance" for court-involved youth. The JJC education attorney supervises Suffolk Law students and directly advocates for youth at school hearings. Much of the JJC's education advocacy supports youth with unidentified or untreated learning disabilities which, when left untreated, impair their ability to succeed in school.
The Center is grateful for the support of the following foundations. This support has enabled the Center to increase its scope and capacity for reaching out to youth and youth-serving institutions in Massachusetts.
- Mabel Louise Riley Foundation
- The Boston Foundation
- The Gardiner Howland Shaw Foundation
- The John T. Alden Trust
- The DeCrow Foundation