Senator Baker Speaks at National Symposium on Indigent Defense

Discusses how Pennsylvania is working to reform the juvenile justice system

Senator Lisa Baker recently detailed Pennsylvania’s efforts to reform the juvenile justice system for a national gathering in Washington, D.C.

The U. S. Department of Justice’s National Symposium on Indigent Defense brought together state and federal public defenders and prosecutors, judges, policymakers, and other criminal justice practitioners to develop ways to enhance indigent defense services.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder opened the symposium by stating, “I’m here to discuss a responsibility that we, as stewards of our nation’s criminal justice system, all share – a responsibility to ensure the fairness and integrity of that system.”

He told the group that the facts prove there is a serious problem and that, “government must be a part of the solution – not simply by acting as a convener but also by serving as a collaborator.”

Senator Baker’s workshop titled Systemic Advocacy and Juvenile Defense: Bringing About Meaningful Change also included Elizabeth Clarke, President of the Juvenile Justice Initiative in Evanston, Illinois, and Robin Dahlberg, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU Racial Justice Program in New York City.

Session moderator Kathi Grasso, Senior Juvenile Justice Policy and Legal Advisor for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, noted the importance of legislators being educated on these issues.

Senator Baker agreed that legislators are a part of the community and serve as an important voice on a variety of issues. She encouraged those involved in the justice system to maintain lines of communication with elected officials who write the rules and determine the funding for the system.

Citing numerous examples from a Juvenile Law Center court filing to demonstrate the problems with the denial of representation of juveniles, Senator Baker added that, as the mother of a teenage son, she would not want this to happen to her child or any other family ever again.

Robert Listenbee, a member of Pennsylvania’s Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, and symposium panelist, remarked that what happened in Luzerne County is a local problem that has gotten national attention. “People are interested to see what caused the failures in the system and our recommendations for preventing it from happening in the future,” he said.

Senator Baker and the National Symposium on Indigent Defense

Contact: Jennifer Wilson
(570) 675-3931

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