About Us

The Colorado Juvenile Defender Center (“CJDC”) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring excellence in juvenile defense and advocacy, and justice for all children and youth in Colorado.

CJDC believes all children and youth should experience adolescence free from over-criminalization in a just society that promotes their well-being and provides second chances. We Believe in Youth!

CJDC’s Initiatives

CJDC’s  2015-2020 strategic plan lays out five key strategic initiatives:
  • Ensure access to counsel and quality representation for juveniles charged with crimes;
  • Reduce the “collateral consequences” of a juvenile adjudication;
  • Reduce over-incarceration of children in juvenile facilities and adult prisons;
  • End the school to prison pipeline;
  • Improve conditions of confinement for juveniles.

CJDC achieves the initiatives by advocating for policy change, providing resources, and training juvenile defense attorneys to provide specialized and quality representation to youth.

CJDC’s Projects
Education First
  • This project, funded by the Nord Family Foundation and the Denver Foundation directly represents youth in suspension, expulsion and special education proceedings.
  • CJDC provides further select representation for municipal criminal court cases where the underlying offense results in school disciplinary proceedings.
  • Education First’s Staff Attorney Elie Zwiebel and CJDC are currently representing youth in these proceedings and engaging communities to increase representation and advocacy in Education related cases.
Believe in Youth
  • This project, funded by the Denver Foundation, Colorado Bar Foundation and a Skadden Fellowship directly represents youth and young adults in deregistration and expungement petitions.
  • CJDC continues to advocate to end juvenile sex offender registration in Colorado.
  • CJDC’s Believe in Youth program has been supported by local Colorado Criminal Defense attorneys, CJDC’s board and new ED, Kristin Ladd. CJDC’s new Skadden Fellow and Staff Attorney, Emma McLean-Riggs is currently representing all new referrals to our program.
Training and Resources for Juvenile Defenders 
  • CJDC provides training to Colorado’s juvenile defenders, including our Annual Excellence in Juvenile Defense Conference. Our fifth annual conference is scheduled for April 23-24, 2019.
  • CJDC holds regular trainings and meetings for attorneys representing children charged as adults and children sentenced to juvenile life without parole, to share resources and brainstorm litigation strategies.
  • CJDC created the Colorado Juvenile Defense Manual as a resource for Juvenile Defenders.
Policy Advocacy 
  • CJDC has been a leader in juvenile justice policy advocacy in Colorado. CJDC spearheaded reforms to the way children are charged with crimes in adult court in 2012, and reforms to ensure that all children arrested and accused of crimes receive a lawyer in 2014. In 2016 CJDC championed two bills that passed to end juvenile life without parole sentences in Colorado and reduce the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities.
  • CJDC continues to advocate for just juvenile policy through our policy committee.
Access to Juvenile Justice: The Rural and Tribal Southwest
  • This project, funded by the DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), examined access to specialized and zealous juvenile defense in the rural and tribal areas of the Southwest region. The project also provided training to defenders in rural and tribal areas.
  • CJDC’s Access to Justice Program Manager, Amanda Butler, oversaw this three-year project, which concluded in October of 2018.