The Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Maine School of Law was recently awarded a grant of $83,000 from the John T. Gorman Foundation for an additional year of support for the Juvenile Justice Reform Project. The Foundation, which is based in Maine, “advances ideas and opportunities that can improve the lives of disadvantaged people in Maine.”
The funding will further advance the work of Juvenile Justice Clinic founder and faculty supervisor Professor Christopher Northrop and his students to research, develop, and advocate for a number of key reforms needed to reduce inappropriate detention and confinement; to build a sustainable continuum of care as an alternative to incarceration; to increase fairness in the juvenile justice system; and to help young people at-risk of system involvement, or who have prior system involvement, to succeed. During the next phase of the project, the Clinic will address the following: (1) the law and policy around the handling of juvenile records; (2) the use of an adult standard to assess juveniles’ culpability for negligent and reckless conduct; and (3) an over-reliance on incarceration and the failure to invest in an effective continuum of community-based alternatives for system-involved youth.
The grant will also enable the Law School to establish the Maine Center for Juvenile Policy and Law (MCJPAL) as a recognized entity in the Clinic to provide staffing and a platform for integrating the reform efforts. The MCJPAL will support Clinic students and faculty in their policy work and, through ongoing coordination of and collaboration with partners and stakeholders, support specific reform efforts designed to reverse their adverse impact on current and formerly system-involved Maine youth and increase positive outcomes.
Nationally-recognized juvenile justice reform expert Jill Ward will serve as Project Manager of the MCJPAL. Jill has worked for a variety of state and national clients on juvenile justice reform and related children’s policy issues. She serves as a senior policy consultant for the Youth First Initiative and the Campaign for Youth Justice.
Professor Deirdre M. Smith, Clinic Director, said of the grant: “We are so thankful for the John T. Gorman Foundation’s continued support of the Juvenile Justice Clinic’s work on juvenile policy and reform. When Professor Northrop launched the Juvenile Justice Clinic more than 10 years ago, he developed an innovative program of direct representation and policy experience for Clinic students. The Clinic is already a recognized leader in juvenile policy work in Maine, and the launch of the MCJPAL and the addition of Jill Ward to our team will enable us to formalize our role as the locus of juvenile justice reform efforts in the state.”