Report: Missouri Youth Offenders Regularly Denied Access To Lawyers

Jun 12, 2013

Missouri youths who are accused of crimes often are not represented by an attorney in juvenile court, according to a report by the National Juvenile Defender Center

The study finds Missouri’s juvenile detention system is a nationwide model, because it focuses on localized facilities and in-house services for youth. But the juvenile court system is lacking, partially due to massive caseloads for Missouri public defenders. Those defenders are forced to ration their services, according to Washington University law professor Mae Quinn.

“When you have a system like that, that’s forced to ration justice and prioritize, very often young people fall to the bottom of the list and I think many folks believe that it’s just juvenile court so the consequences are not so grave, [that] these cases are not that important. But they are very important and the consequences can be grave,” Quinn said.

A 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case ruled that children must be given the same due process rights as adults.

The National Juvenile Defender Center is examining each state’s juvenile justice system.