I recently attended the Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP) co-sponsored by the National Juvenile Defender Center and Georgetown Law’s Juvenile Justice Clinic. This is a week-long trial skills program specifically designed for frontline juvenile defenders. Roughly, think bootcamp for juvenile defenders.
The program runs from Sunday evening through Saturday morning, and covers everything from competency evaluations to post-disposition advocacy. One of the best parts of the program is its lecture/breakout structure: sessions typically involved a lecture about some particular aspect of a juvenile case (e.g., Motions to Suppress Identifications, Disposition Advocacy, Probation Violations) and are followed by small-group breakout sessions. The breakout sessions give you a chance to practice implementing points from the lecture, and to get instant feedback from your instructors and fellow defenders.
The trial advocacy training is top-notch, but one of the best parts of the program was interacting with frontline defenders from around the country. I was amazed at how different each state’s juvenile delinquency system operates, and yet all of us face similar problems: the over-reliance on putting children, particularly children of color, in cages; the sacrifice of and often outright disrespect for constitutional and statutory rights in the name of efficiency and ‘getting services’; and reluctance and distaste by juvenile court actors to incorporate recent Supreme Court jurisprudence into everyday practice. We were all able to share different strategies and tactics for overcoming these injustices. I returned to North Carolina with new ideas about how I can better represent my clients in juvenile court.
Given its length, the program is exhausting, but it’s also exhilarating. You’re with fellow defenders of youth who all want to improve outcomes for their clients, and who are willing to explore innovative ways to do that. It was without question the most informative, innovative, and practical legal training I’ve ever attended. I’d encourage any defender in North Carolina to apply for next summer. Please don’t hesitate to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re interested or have questions.
Drew Kukorowski is a public defender for young people in Charlotte. In 2012, he began working as a Staff Attorney on the Children’s Defense Team at the Council for Children’s Rights. He previously worked at the Prison Policy Initiative and Advocates for Children’s Services of Legal Aid of North Carolina.