Legal Literacy Clinics

JHA's Legal Literacy Clinics are an educational program run inside the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) to educate youth in pretrial detention facing juvenile or adult criminal charges about the justice system and their legal rights in every stage of court proceedings. A one-of-a-kind program in our nation, these clinics taught by staff and volunteer attorneys using developmentally and age appropriate, comprehensible language help youth to obtain a basic understanding of legal terminology and court processes, which serves to reduce their stress and anxiety levels, promote better communication between youth and their attorneys, and empower youth to advocate for better case outcomes

JHA provides monthly clinics for both youth and their families. In addition, both youth and family members can submit questions about legal terminology and juvenile and criminal court processes, receiving answers on an ongoing basis.

The program’s goals are as follows:

  • Empower youth to self-advocate and better communicate with their attorneys by providing them with a basic understanding of legal terminology and court processes.
  • Educate families about court processes and the juvenile and criminal justice systems to enable them to better communicate and support their children and contribute to their children’s defense.
  • Reduce youth and families’ sense of fear and powerlessness caused by confusion and lack of understanding of legal terminology and basic court processes, thereby allowing youth and families to focus greater attention on treatment, education and support services.
  • Provide JTDC staff with ready access to information about the legal system and juvenile and criminal court processes to enable them to better understand and address youth questions and fears.

This program was developed in response to a request by the JTDC to meet an unaddressed critical need, which was to help youth and families better understand the complexities of the criminal legal process. JHA developed and continues to run the Clinics in order to make this critical need is met. Key collaborators in JHA’s Legal Literacy Clinics include JTDC staff and administration, attorney volunteers from the Office of the State Appellate Defender, and the Office of the Cook County Public Defender.