Racial Justice is one of the primary focal points of the Juvenile Justice Initiative. The Initiative has launched and expanded a number of racial justice projects designed to advocate for youth of color in the juvenile legal system and train juvenile defenders on emerging racial justice issues, such as implicit racial bias and the intersection of race and adolescence.

Racial Justice projects include: 

Ambassadors for Racial Justice

The Ambassadors for Racial Justice is a program for racial-justice minded defenders who are committed to challenging racial injustices in the juvenile legal system. The 12-month-program is designed to (1) encourage and support defenders to challenge racial injustices through legal advocacy, (2) engage defenders in systemic and policy reform, and (3) equip defenders to facilitate difficult conversations on race.

Racial Justice Trainings

Professor Kristin (Kris) Henning, Director of the Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative, trains juvenile defenders, prosecutors, judges, and other state actors across the country on racial bias, racial trauma, and the legal implications of race, adolescence, and policing in the Fourth Amendment and other legal doctrines. Contact Prof. Kristin Henning for more information about training.

Racial Justice and Juvenile Defense Fellowship

The Racial Justice and Juvenile Defense Fellowship is the first of its kind—created solely to advance racial justice advocacy in the Juvenile Justice Initiative. The Fellow’s current projects include developing training materials and resources to help train defenders and other juvenile justice stakeholders on strategies to identify and correct racial bias, managing both the Youth in Proximity and Ambassadors for Racial Justice Programs, and working in collaboration with the National Juvenile Defender Center to develop the Racial Justice Toolkit.

Racial Justice Toolkit

In Fall 2019, the Juvenile Justice Initiative in partnership with the National Juvenile Defender Center launched Racial Justice for Youth: A Toolkit for Defenders, a platform to empower juvenile defenders with the training, resources, and information needed to fight the over-policing, over-criminalization, and school exclusion of youth of color. Through the Toolkit, we hope to inspire juvenile defenders to view racial justice advocacy as an integral and essential component of their youth advocacy. The Toolkit consists of five distinct components: Community Education, Confronting Bias, Case Advocacy, Policy Advocacy, and Infographics and Social Media Advocacy.

Youth in Proximity

Youth in Proximity Network (“Proximity”) was piloted in January 2018 to meet the needs of young clients represented by the Juvenile Justice Clinic. Through Proximity, we provide holistic, wrap-around advocacy for the youth we serve, complete with educational support, resources for basic daily living, and mentorship. Clients request various types of support— from meals and school supplies to mentorship or community service opportunities. The program uniquely allows volunteers in the community to impact and engage with youth in the District of Columbia. Click Youth in Proximity for more information and to find out how to volunteer.