Led by Professor Saleema Snow, the Youth Justice Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law is dedicated to enhancing the lives of the youth it serves. This commitment involves addressing a range of complex issues connected to youth justice and juvenile involvement, such as racism, adultification bias, educational disparities, and housing instability. These factors collectively contribute to young individuals becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.

With more than 400,000 out of 1 million youth involved in the juvenile system experiencing housing instability, the Youth Justice Clinic recognizes the need to affect change. The clinic’s mission encompasses not only legal representation but also advocacy and systemic reform to ensure that youth voices are amplified and offered meaningful opportunities for success.

The Youth Justice Clinic addresses the critical link between housing instability and juvenile arrests. Students are diligently representing clients in D.C. Superior Court in housing conditions matters. Students led hearings that aimed to secure stable and safe housing for their clients. Student attorneys interviewed clients, documented housing violations, negotiated with housing providers, drafted demand letters and complaints, and employed creative problem-solving techniques to meet their client’s goals. Most recently, the clinic secured a three-month rent refund for a client as a sanction against the housing provider.

This year the Youth Justice Clinic partnered with Whitman-Walker to facilitate name and gender changes for youth, recognizing the importance of gender identity in the lives of young individuals.

Systemic reform is a cornerstone of the clinic’s work. Students represent a community-based organization that strives to change the culture, care, and treatment of detained youth. Their efforts included drafting opinion editorials, conducting research for white papers, and facilitating a youth justice forum to encourage broader conversations about reform. Another Youth Justice Clinic systemic reform initiative is offering a paralegal course at the D.C. Jail, creating a pathway to employment for detained residents.

Professor Snow praised the dedication and hard work of the student-attorneys, stating, “These students have rolled up their sleeves and are giving their all to ensure their clients are represented with excellence.”

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