Juvenile Justice Clinic
The Juvenile Justice Clinic was founded in 1973, a mere six years after the Supreme Court extended the right to counsel and procedural due process to children in its landmark case In re Gault.
One of the first law school-based clinics specializing in children’s issues, the Juvenile Justice Clinic sought to fulfill the mandate of the Gault decision, expand the legal rights of children and ensure that children are protected from maltreatment by their parents or the government.
In its early years, the Clinic handled all types of cases involving children, delinquency, education, and child neglect and abuse among others, and helped to formulate policy at the local and national levels. Over time, the Clinic’s focus narrowed to handling only delinquency cases and education cases.
Juvenile Justice Initiative
In 2015, the faculty of the Juvenile Justice Clinic expanded the reach of the Clinic by establishing the Georgetown Law Juvenile Justice Initiative. The Initiative is designed to explore and advance new policies and programs to assist young people and to train juvenile defenders across the nation as the Clinic continues its core mission of educating law students and representing youth accused of crime. Operating at the National, Regional, and Local level with a primary focus on Racial Justice, the mission of the Juvenile Justice Initiative is to advocate for a smaller, better, and more just juvenile legal system in the District of Columbia, the Mid-Atlantic region, and across the country.
April 22, 2022
"The very first word that popped in my head is the trauma," Kristin Henning said. "The research shows that black and brown children who live in heavily surveilled neighborhoods, and who have frequent stops and frisk by the police, report high rates of fear, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, they become hyper vigilant. And they began to distrust police officers, they began to question the legitimacy of policing as an institution. … So the reality is we're doing more harm than good." Click the link to read more and watch the interview.
April 20, 2022
The superpredator myth infected our legal system even when judges didn’t invoke it openly. Kristin Henning, a law professor at Georgetown and the author of “The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth,” told us: “Looking back to cases from the 1990s, you won’t see too many judges use the word ‘superpredator,’ but it was definitely in the air. You can see it in the juvenile transfer laws that allowed young people to be tried as adults and in the long sentences many teenagers got. They all stem from that same idea that Black children must be feared and controlled. The Belcher opinion rejects that way of thinking.”
Clink the link to read the full article.
March 3, 2022
"As a country, we tend to make decisions that are reactionary based on one or two high-profile incidents, instead of following the evidence and research on what is most effective and equitable." - Kristin Henning
January 14, 2022
Click the link to read the full article.
The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth is "a serious and thoughtful book about a subject of great importance, and it deserves to be widely read." Click the link to read the full review from The New York Times.
October 29, 2021
Recent headlines out of Tennessee once again tell a disturbing story of judicial authority run amok, with children in the crosshairs. As revealed by ProPublica, a juvenile court judge in Rutherford County, Tennessee, has been locking up almost exclusively Black children, as young as 7 years old, for behavior that is not even a crime. Click the link to read the rest.
October 20, 2021
Kristin Henning, director of the Juvenile Justice Clinic at Georgetown University’s law school, has represented children accused of delinquency for more than 20 years and said many encounters escalate “from zero to 100” in seconds — often because police interpret impulsive adolescent behavior as a threat.
October 12, 2021
“When you are close to the kids, you work with the kids every day, you see that they are just kids, and they’re doing what every other kid does,” she said. “Talking back, being themselves, experimenting, expressing their discomfort, expressing their displeasure about something — that’s what kids do.”
Read more by clicking the link above.
How America Criminalizes Black Youth: A damning ProPublica report delves into one Tennessee judge’s abuse of power after 11 Black elementary school children were arrested and/or detained for a crime that doesn’t exist. Issues of racism in juvenile detention are nothing new, says author Kristin Henning.
October 7, 2021
The Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative is proud to join 60 other local and national organizations in signing a letter to Mayor Bowser and the DC Council in support of the Redefinition of Child Amendment Act of 2021.
The Redefinition of Child Amendment Act would ensure that all cases involving children who are accused of criminal code violations begin in the developmentally responsive setting of juvenile court. Under this bill, children could still be transferred to adult criminal court, but only after a judge examines the unique circumstances of the youth, their capacity for rehabilitation in the juvenile system, and the interests of the public in transfer. The Redefinition of Child Amendment Act would end the ineffective decades-long practice of having the United States Attorney’s Office directly file accusations against youth in adult criminal court – a practice which has set countless District youth on a path to isolation from their families, denial of rehabilitative services, and punitive supervision.
Additionally, read Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative Policy Director Eduardo Ferrer's testimony in support of the Act on our Research & Publications page, linked in the sidebar.
September 28, 2021
AVAILABLE NOW: In her new book, Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative Director Kristin Henning confronts America’s irrational and manufactured fears of Black youth and makes a compelling case that our nation’s obsession with policing and incarcerating Black America begins with Black children. Visit RageOfInnocence.com to learn more, get your copy, and join a book tour event!
September 27, 2021
“The vast majority — 80 percent or more — of crimes committed by children are non-serious crimes,” she says. “We could reduce law enforcement engagement with young people by 80 percent and we would all be fine, but people don’t believe that.”
July 28, 2021
Read the rest of the interview with Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative Director Kristin Henning in the LA Times.
In "Cops at the Schoolyard Gate," published by Vox, Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative Director Kristin Henning examines how the number of police officers in schools skyrocketed in recent decades and made for a harrowing education for Black and brown youth. Read this excerpt from The Rage of Innocence by Kristin Henning and pre-order the book at the link below.
April 30, 2021
The Georgetown Law Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative is pleased to announce the release of Seeing What’s Underneath: A Resource for Understanding Behavior & Using Language in Juvenile Court, developed in partnership with the National Juvenile Defender Center, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and Fair and Just Prosecution.
April 23, 2021
"[T]he persistent examples of police killing Black and brown children raises the question: Who is entitled to the grace of childhood? [...] No doubt, the police want us to slow down, resist snap judgments, and evaluate this shooting independently of all the others. But this is exactly what the police should be doing every time they each encounter a child."
April 22, 2021
"It’s not going to be different until we radically reduce the footprint of police officers in the lives of Black and brown children." Prof. Kristin Henning spoke with Vox about Ma’Khia Bryant, Adam Toledo, and law enforcement’s long tradition of policing and brutalizing Black and brown children.
February 12, 2021
“Black children have never been given their opportunity to be children,” said Kristin Henning, law professor and director of the Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative at Georgetown Law.
February 12, 2021
Read more from Prof. Henning in this Washington Post article bout how the story of police pepper spraying a 9-year-old Black girl in Rochester, NY reflects how Black children are policed throughout the country.
Days after a video of police pepper spraying and handcuffing a 9-year-old Black girl went viral, Blume Professor of Law Kristin Henning posed a fundamental question: “How do we cultivate a society in which we treat all kids like kids?”
February 10, 2021
Nearly 1,000 students, lawyers, psychologists, juvenile justice officials, advocates and others had virtually tuned in for answers at a compelling, Feb. 5 cross-campus event on “The Dehumanization of Children of Color: Rethinking Policing and Policy.”
Read more and watch a recording of the event.
Read The Imprint's coverage of the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative's event The Dehumanization of Children of Color: Rethinking Policing and Policy. Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, one of the nation’s preeminent scientists on race and policing, and Prof. Kristin Henning had a public discussion on the research and reality of racial bias in policing youth. Their discussion was followed by a panel of local and national youth justice experts.
December 17, 2020
Jennifer Ubiera testified to the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety's Alternatives to Policing Roundtable in support of reimagining public safety by reducing police contacts with the community and investing in community infrastructure.
October 13, 2020
New Proposal from D.C. Justice Lab and Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative:
October 15, 2020
Bare minimum Miranda warnings fail to fully protect children because they do not accommodate for a child’s high susceptibility to pressure and limited cognitive ability. Black children are disproportionately affected by the grave insufficiencies of the Miranda doctrine because it fails to consider the unique vulnerabilities of Black youth experience when interacting with the police.
As residents, law students, attorneys, and members of the community, we urge the D.C. Council to protect children from Miranda’s shortcomings by requiring, prior to any custodial interrogation, that (1) law enforcement provide youth with expanded warnings; (2) youth be provided a reasonable opportunity to consult with counsel; and (3) waivers will only be valid if they are knowing, intelligent, voluntary, and made in the presence of counsel.
Eduardo Ferrer testified at the Council of the District of Columbia's Committee on the Judiciary & Public Safety public hearing today, advocating for police reforms that protect the specific vulnerabilities of youth and end the over-policing of Black youth. Read his testimony calling for access to counsel at interrogation for all youth, ending the practice of "consent" searches for youth under 18, and eliminate funding for school safety from the Metropolitan Police Department budget and instead reinvest it in implementing a more holistic approach to school safety and youth development.
July 9, 2020
NPR's Hidden Brain podcast featured JJC Director Kristin Henning in its latest gripping episode, "The Night That Lasted A Lifetime: How Psychology Was Misused In Teen's Murder Case." Listen to Professor Henning on the podcast here (starting at 34:00).
February 20, 2020
In a fitting way to honor and carry on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life work, 10 juvenile defenders from across the country recently gathered at Georgetown Law over a chilly MLK holiday weekend. Together, the geographically and racially diverse group marked the start of their yearlong service as “Ambassadors for Racial Justice.” They are part of a pilot program, sponsored by Georgetown Law’s Juvenile Justice Initiative and the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC), that seeks to bring racial justice concerns to the forefront of juvenile justice advocacy and empower advocates to develop innovative ways to challenge systemic inequities.
The Dehumanization of Children of Color: Rethinking Policing and Policy
The Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative and the Georgetown Department of Psychology hosted nearly 1,000 students, lawyers, psychologists, juvenile justice officials, advocates and others who had virtually tuned in to hear Prof. Kristin Henning and Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, preeminent researcher on racial bias and policing, discuss the psychology behind the racially disparate policing of children of color.
True Justice Documentary Screening: Bryan Stevenson's Fight For Equality
Following their discussion, Prof. Henning moderated an expert roundtable on how research findings can best drive and shape reform. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and D.C. Council member Charles Allen discussed recent juvenile justice reform efforts in the city. Black Swan Academy founder Samantha P. Davis spoke about her nonprofit’s support of youth-led advocacy to get police out of schools. And Michael Umpierre, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform called for holistic investments in youth.
Read more about the event and watch a recording.
The Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic in partnership with Restorative DC, Georgetown Black Law Students Association, Georgetown Law Campus Ministry, Georgetown Defenders, Georgetown Youth Advocates and the Office of Equity and Inclusion invite you to join us on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 for a screening of Bryan Stevenson's HBO documentary, True Justice. The screening will begin at 5:30PM followed by a post-documentary dialogue.