Legal Aid of Nebraska is pleased to announce it has been awarded a Juvenile Post-Disposition Reentry Fellowship from the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC). Legal Aid was one of only four organizations selected from across the nation to host this highly competitive fellowship.
This fellowship will allow Legal Aid to provide concentrated legal assistance with Lincoln-area youth reentering their communities following time spent in the juvenile court system. Every day, Legal Aid bears witness to the barriers that stand in the way of juveniles fulfilling their educational, social and economic potential. Legal Aid is committed to helping these youth overcome these obstacles. This national fellowship will greatly intensify this effort.
This challenge is dramatic in Nebraska. Thousands of young people enter and exit the formal custody of the juvenile justice system yearly. In Lancaster County alone, nearly 1,000 new youth criminal proceedings are begun each year that will result in youth facing reentry challenges. Also, Nebraska has recently ranked as high as third among the states in incarceration rates for juvenile offenders.
“Legal Aid is honored to receive this national recognition from the NJDC, which understands Nebraska youth are facing these challenges and many community responses are underway,” said Milo Mumgaard, Executive Director of Legal Aid of Nebraska. “The purpose of the juvenile system is to give kids another chance; sometimes they also need legal help to overcome the barriers that are often lain in their path.”
The Juvenile Post-Disposition Reentry Legal Fellow will be based in the Lincoln office of Legal Aid of Nebraska. The Lincoln office has had a Juvenile Justice Project since the mid-1980s, and currently has a staff of six attorneys with a combined 79 years of experience. The fellow will be working within Lancaster County’s increasingly collaborative activity aimed at providing continuity of care in juvenile reentry services, including with the Lancaster County Public Defender and local youth social service providers.
The fellow will focus on legal barriers faced in education, benefits, employment and housing, and take legal action necessary to solve them. These include such civil legal issues as suspensions or reenrollments in school, reinstatement of driver’s licenses and Medicaid health benefits, barriers to occupational licenses and exclusion from public housing. The legal focus will be on sealing juvenile records and insuring access to services.
This fellowship is to be staffed by Scout Richters, a 2014 honors graduate of the Brooklyn Law School. Ms. Richters has been a Legal Aid of Nebraska staff attorney since June 2015. She has served as a Legal Fellow at ACLU Nebraska, and prior to that worked on the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. Further, Ms. Richters served as a Legal Intern with the “Youth Represent Reentry Clinic” in 2013-14 in New York City.
The fellowship is provided by the National Juvenile Defense Center, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC dedicated to promoting justice for all children by ensuring excellence in juvenile defense. The fellowship is funded through a generous grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Office (OJJDP).
The organizations selected to host Juvenile Post-Disposition Reentry Fellows are:
Richland County (South Carolina) Public Defender
Maryland Office of the Public Defender – Baltimore City
Legal Aid of Nebraska – Lincoln
Contra Costa County (California) Public Defender