Jill Ward

Director, Center for Youth Policy and
Law Adjunct Professor 

Jill Ward is Director of the Center for Youth Policy and Law, formerly the Maine Center for Juvenile Policy and Law (MCJPAL), and Adjunct Professor. As Director, she works with clinic students, faculty, and system stakeholders to advance policies and practices to reduce harm and to increase positive outcomes for current and former system-involved Maine youth. As part of her new role, she is also serving as an adjunct professor, teaching Juvenile Law and a course on policy change and social justice reform.

In 2023, Ward was appointed as Senior Policy Advisor to The United States Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). In this part-time role, Ward provides policy guidance to the OJJDP, including developing new regulations to assist state implementation of the reauthorized federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

A nationally-recognized youth justice reform leader, Ward has been actively involved in guiding the reform conversation in Maine as one of three co-chairs of a statewide juvenile justice task force, as chair of Maine’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Group and as a partner in the collaborative Regional Care Team initiative with the Department of Corrections and the Cutler Institute at USM. In 2021, she received the ARC Award from the Center for Children’s Law and Policy in recognition of her leadership as an advocate for youth and a champion of equitable and effective reform. She has worked as an advocacy and policy consultant on children, youth, and justice issues for state and national organizations, including the Maine Children’s Alliance, the Campaign for Youth Justice, and the Youth First Initiative. She is an Advisory Board member of the Freedom & Captivity public humanities initiative led by Colby College and other Maine institutions. Ward also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as president of the boards of the League of Women Voters of Maine and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections.

Prior to returning to Maine in 2007, Ward served as the first Policy Director for the Girl Scouts of the USA and Director of Juvenile Justice and Youth Development at the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington D.C., where she co-chaired the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition. She has more than 7 years of Capitol Hill experience as a legislative aide to former U.S. Senators George Mitchell (ME) and Paul Sarbanes (MD).

Selected Publications

Christopher M. Northrop, Jill M. Ward, Jonathan J. Ruterbories & Jess N. Mizzi, What's My Age Again?: Adolescent Development and the Case for Expanding Original Juvenile Court Jurisdiction and Investing in Alternatives for Emerging Adults Involved in Maine's Justice System, 74 Me. L. Rev. 243 (2022). [PDF]

Sanchez, M., King, E., Ward, J. and Foley, J. Regional Care Teams First Year Review: Cross Systems Collaboration to Improve Positive Youth Outcomes, November 2021.

Sanchez, M., King, E. and Ward, J. Aligning Investments in a Community-Based Continuum of Care for Maine Youth Transitioning to Adulthood, March 2019.

Promoting Safe Communities: Recommendations for the Administration, National Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Coalition, Washington DC, February 2013.

Recommendations for Juvenile Justice Reform: Opportunities for Action in the 112th Congress, with Neelum Arya, National Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Coalition, Washington DC, February 2011.

Juvenile Justice and Youth Development, Chapter 7, The State of America’s Children 2004, Children’s Defense Fund, Summer 2004.

Deterrence’s Difficulty Magnified: The Importance of Adolescent Development in Assessing the Deterrence Value of Transferring Juveniles to Adult Court, UC Davis Journal of Law & Policy, Vol. 7, No. 2, Summer 2003.