More praise, much deserved, for the Juvenile Law Center: the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a congratulatory editorial today praising the organization and celebrating its MacArthur Foundation award. Here it is, in full:
The $500,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation to the Juvenile Law Center is just the latest confirmation of the good and important work the Philadelphia organization has done for more than a quarter-century.
Since 1975, the JLC has often been the leading legal voice in the city for children. Founded by four Temple University law school graduates, it is one of the oldest public-interest law firms for children in the country.
Many of the youths the JLC advocates for are society’s most troubled and vulnerable. Without this band of dedicated lawyers, many of the rights and interests of kids in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems would get overlooked.
Initially, the JLC focused on local cases, often involving overcrowding at juvenile justice institutions, as well as abuse, neglect and school discipline matters.
Increasingly, the nonprofit has been involved in broader class-action suits, appellate work and policy studies that impact treatment of youths nationwide.
The JLC has helped craft model legislation and policies that favor rehabilitation instead of jail for juveniles – arguing that harsh treatment for young people is both unjust and ineffective.
In 2005, the JLC filed a friend of the court brief in Roper v. Simmons, a key U.S. Supreme Court case that abolished the death penalty for crimes committed by anyone under age 18. At the time, the United States was the only nation that allowed for minors to be executed for crimes.
The JLC has filed briefs on behalf of juveniles being held at Guantanamo Bay. One case involves a boy who was 15 at the time of a firefight in Afghanistan, who was charged with hurling a grenade that killed an Army soldier. The JLC argues the boy was pressed to fight without the ability to think on his own.
As in many other JLC cases, the boy now has someone on his side.