Washington Judicial Colloquies Project: A Guide for Improving Communication and Understanding in Juvenile Court
We discovered that the need for a change has long been on the minds of judges, attorneys, court staff and other stakeholders. We developed this guide to help others effect that change.
A typical juvenile offender matter involves many court stages – first appearance, conditions of release review, case setting, motions, trials, dispositions and compliance hearings. At these stages, youth are expected to understand the implications of waiver of counsel, plea agreements, conditions of release or probation, the long-term consequences of an adjudication of guilt and the consequences of non-compliance with court orders.
In court, judges make and deliver decisions that are critical to the young people appearing before them. Judges are also tasked with conveying critical information, ordering conditions and expectations, taking pleas, and accepting waivers. Attorneys and juvenile court probation staff play the role of explaining, reinforcing and enforcing this information.
But, countless anecdotes describe youth coming out of court hearings confused about what had happened, unclear about the roles of the various adults in the courtroom, and unsure of what was expected of them.
The Washington State Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network (JIDAN) team set out to understand the extent of this problem and identify ways to improve a youth’s understanding of the expectations of the court in an offender case.
This inquiry resulted in the Washington State Judicial Colloquies Project, which aims to improve young people’s comprehension of the conditions of pre-adjudication release and post-adjudication probation commonly ordered in Washington’s juvenile offender proceedings. By increasing understanding of the court’s expectations, the Project hopes to improve compliance and reduce detention and other sanctions. The Project also aims to increase the awareness of court and juvenile justice stakeholders of the need for more developmentally appropriate language in juvenile court.