Juvenile Law Center

Austin Phillips Kupke

Education and Criminal Justice Policy Analyst, Legislative Budget Board, Texas

Summer Intern, 2011

Lessons Learned

So hard to choose! The opportunities to observe juvenile court proceedings, visit a juvenile detention facility, and lead a "Know Your Rights" workshop for youth at risk of becoming court-involved were eye-opening. These experiences also gave us summer clerks the chance to come face-to-face with the systems we were working to change. That summer, Juvenile Law Center also was in the midst of the "kids for cash" litigation, and I had the unbelievable experience of traveling to Luzerne County with Emily Keller and another summer clerk to interview families and young people who had been before Judge Ciavarella. I would be remiss, however, in failing to mention Juvenile Law Center Quizzo and our trip to a Phillies game!

The philosophy of Juvenile Law Center that has remained with me and impacted me so strongly during my time there was that all children, regardless of their alleged actions, have a right to a fair system that takes appropriate account of the differences between children and adults. No one would deny the gravity of some crimes. But as a society, we need to assess youth in light of their developmental immaturity, susceptibility to impulse and peer pressure, and ability to be rehabilitated into productive adults. Anything less is a complete failure of justice and disservice to our future.

Impact on my Career

I remember starting law school with a vague notion that I wanted to do something to improve outcomes for under-represented youth, which I built upon through various courses and experiences during my first and second years. But, then I came to the Juvenile Law Center and an attorney there asked me point blank what specific issues interested me; he explained to me his own interest in juvenile detention facility policies. Until my experience at Juvenile Law Center, I did not realize the extent to which one can have a depth of knowledge, expertise, and passion for each component of the systems that affect youth. Juvenile Law Center helped me see how laws and policies can be used creatively with laser-like precision as powerful tools to create real change for countless youth nationwide. I carry that knowledge and focus with me today as a policymaker in one of the largest states in the country.

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