With Raise the Age’s full implementation now only several months away, OJD has been diligent in rolling out its North Carolina Juvenile Defender State Enhancement Program (SEP). As part of this initiative, from Apr. 24 – 26 the Office of Juvenile Defender (OJD) partnered with the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) to teach 10 dedicated N.C. juvenile defense attorneys NJDC’s Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP).
During the three-day training program, three NJDC trainers engaged juvenile defenders in various hands-on activities and discussions in preparation to be effective regional trainers of other defenders across the state. Discussions ranged from the difficulties of representing juveniles to cultivating showmanship and employing adult learning theory. Defenders were also put into pairs and small groups for some activities to encourage collaboration.
As one of the first pieces in the SEP project, funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the purpose of JTIP was to allow OJD to offer more quality training to defenders statewide, while also providing more support from defenders who practice in the communities and regions they will train in. JTIP is meant specifically for trainer presentation, but does not offer substantive training on the new law.
Also as a result of the OJJDP grant, Project Attorney Monique Williams joined the OJD team earlier this year. As project attorney, she has done extensive investigations of juvenile courts in multiple counties, collected data, and devised new training to prepare N.C. juvenile defenders for the full implementation of Raise the Age.
“The JTIP training was absolutely the highlight of my tenure here as the Project Attorney for the OJJDP grant,” said Williams. “I was able to sit in on some of the sessions, and the vast materials and concepts imparted by NJDC to our N.C. attorneys will not only enhance their instructional facilitation skills, but their practice skills as well. I am certain that juvenile advocates across the state of N.C. will be educated and empowered by the content that will be shared with them in the coming future, and I am excited to see the positive impact in representation for our clients.”
Dorothy Hairston Mitchell, assistant clinical professor of law and supervising attorney of the Juvenile Law Clinic at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), was among the 10 participants selected for the program. Mitchell and other members of NCCU’s staff were instrumental in assisting with preparations for the training.
“[North Carolina Central University] was so excited to host this training and the collaboration, working with Monique and everybody, was phenomenal,” Mitchell said. “As a participant, I thought it was also phenomenal… Really well put together. I appreciated the way that they grouped us, they had us partnered up and, at least for my partner, I think we were perfectly paired. And all of the people in our group, it seemed like everyone felt the same way… I have not been to too many trainings where I come out like ‘Oh, my God, every single moment was just great!’, and this was one of them.”
Although JTIP offers a more intensive 40-lesson program that spans multiple weeks, NJDC agreed to condense the training for the N.C. attorneys, providing them with the additional information, but simplifying the presentation to fit the three-day window. Mitchell also stated that she was interested in learning more, saying that while she appreciated the experience, extending the training would have been the only thing she would have changed. “It was very intense the way it was, but I would’ve appreciated [the longer training]. It was so good, that I had a longing for what we didn’t get.”
With JTIP now completed, the next steps in the SEP are to provide the regional and local trainings and follow up with trainers for future site visits. Williams will also conduct further court observations, post-training evaluations, and surveys to help OJD assess what areas juvenile defenders may need more training in following Raise the Age’s full implementation.