September 2, 2016
The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice is participating as amicus curiae before the state Appellate Division in State ex rel. O.S., a case considering whether the State’s Juvenile Courts have the ongoing authority to review the conditions of confinement after youths are adjudicated delinquent and sentenced to state custody.
O.S. was repeatedly assaulted by other youths—so severely that his jaw was broken—and denied care while in the custody of the Juvenile Justice Commission. He appealed to the juvenile court which had sentenced him, seeking to be moved to another facility. The court refused to hear O.S.’s case, reasoning that it had authority over his sentencing but not the ongoing conditions of his confinement.
Amici argue that the Juvenile Court has both the authority and the obligation to protect children like O.S. from abuse. Upon sentencing, O.S. became a ward of the state and the Juvenile Court System undertook a duty to maintain his safety and security, as well as to promote his rehabilitation. Without the ability to turn to the juvenile court, O.S. and youths like him would be left without meaningful legal recourse to address abuse. The only available alternative, the internal grievance procedures, would require youths without the assistance of an attorney to bring their complaints to the very organization that they allege had denied them protection and treatment.
NJISJ and its Legal Program, via NJISJ’s Equal Justice Initiative, are committed to improving juvenile justice in New Jersey. NJISJ believes that addressing the treatment and ensuring the rights of children sentenced to state custody is critical both to bettering the lives of these children and to addressing systemic criminal justice and urban poverty issues.
NJISJ is joined by amici the Rutgers Urban Legal Clinic, the Juvenile Law Center, the National Juvenile Defender Center, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, and Advocates for Children of New Jersey.
To read the Amicus brief, click here.