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The NCJFCJ and the National Juvenile Defender Center Release Bench Card to Address Bias in Juvenile and Family Courts

News / Member News / The NCJFCJ and the National Juvenile Defender Center Release Bench Card to Address Bias in Juvenile and Family Courts

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) and the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) today released Addressing Bias in Delinquency and Child Welfare Systems, a bench card emphasizing that “eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile and family courts is critical to creating a fair and equitable system of justice for all youth.”

“Eliminating bias in our juvenile courts is imperative not only for the success of youth, but also for the very mission of the juvenile court system,” said Mary Ann Scali, NJDC executive director. “The development and release of this bench card is intended to promote attention, dialogue, and concrete strategies to ensure youth rights and equity in our courts.”

Youth of color are disproportionately represented at every decision point of the juvenile delinquency court process: they face higher arrest rates for similar conduct, are afforded fewer opportunities for diversion, and are far more likely to be detained and incarcerated. Youth of color and their families face similar disparities in the child welfare system, and when youth are dually involved in the delinquency and child welfare systems, these disparities are exacerbated.

“Unfortunately, disparities that exist today are not vastly different from what has been reported on disproportionality and disparities since the 1980s,” said NCJFCJ Past President Judge Ernestine S. Gray, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court. “It is my hope that, starting with the judges, this bench card will help move the field further than we have moved in the last three decades.”

The Addressing Bias bench card educates juvenile and family court judges about structural, explicit, and implicit bias; provides judges with self-reflection tools to help them recognize and prevent bias in their courtroom; and offers judges concrete strategies to correct implicit bias.

“As judges, it is our responsibility to provide leadership by example through introspective questioning of our own biases at every stage of each case,” said Judge John J. Romero, Jr., NCJFCJ president. “This bench card compliments the Enhanced Resource Guidelines as a step-by-step tool to best assist juvenile and family court judges of the impact of biases in making judicial decisions.”

Addressing Bias, available at is the fifth in a series of bench cards jointly created by NCJFCJ and NJDC, with support from the State Justice Institute. The first four bench cards are also available online:

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