Jessica Feierman, Esq.

Senior Managing Director

Jessica Feierman is a Senior Managing Director of Juvenile Law Center, where she leads programmatic work and engages in impact litigation, amicus efforts, and policy reform to reduce the harmful impact of the juvenile and criminal legal and family regulation systems. Jessica is a nationally recognized expert on the rights of young people, and has published and presented widely on economic justice, racial justice, adolescent development, conditions of confinement, and the youth legal system.  

Jessica co-authored the lead child advocates amicus briefs to the U.S Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida, which held unconstitutional life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of non-homicide offenses under the Eighth Amendment; Safford v. Redding, which held a school strip search unconstitutional; J.D.B. v. North Carolina, which held that a juvenile's age is relevant to the Miranda custody analysis under the Fifth Amendment; and Timbs v. Indiana, which held that the Eighth Amendment prohibition on excessive fines applies to the states. She has also authored over 50 amicus briefs in federal and state courts on a wide array of issues impacting youth in the legal system. 

Jessica was a lead counsel in J.J. v. Litscher, a class action case that successfully settled to prohibit solitary confinement and strictly limit the use of strip searches and restraints in Wisconsin’s secure facilities for youth in the juvenile legal system, and in T.D. v. Mickens, a damages action challenging the use of solitary confinement in New Jersey’s juvenile legal system, which settled for compensation for the involved young people. 

Jessica leads Juvenile Law Center’s work on economic justice and launched a highly successful national effort to end fines and fees in the juvenile justice system. Jessica’s publication Debtors’ Prison for Kids, featured in the New York Times, set the stage for intensive state policy advocacy across the country; since publication, over 20 states have eliminated fees and fines or transformed restitution practices in their juvenile courts. 

Jessica’s deep interest in community and youth activism led her to found Juveniles for Justice, now called Advocates for Youth Justice, a program of Juvenile Law Center that supports justice system-involved youth in becoming advocates for change.  

Prior to joining Juvenile Law Center in 2006, Jessica was a litigation fellow at the ACLU National Prison Project, where she litigated prison conditions cases in federal court. From 2001-2003, Jessica was a teaching fellow in the Georgetown University Law Center's Street Law in the Community Program. From 2000-2001, Jessica served as a law clerk to the Honorable Warren J. Ferguson on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Jessica is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School and was awarded an LLM in advocacy from Georgetown University Law Center.  Before attending law school, Jessica founded and directed the Teen Health Initiative (now called the Teen Activist Project) at the New York Civil Liberties Union. 

Jessica was appointed by Governor Wolf to serve on Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee.  

Photo Credit - John Arroyo of Photography Without Borders 

Articles and Publications

Academic Publications 

Children in the Justice System: The Legal Framework, APA Handbook of Psychology and Juvenile Justice American Psychological Association, 2016 (with Marsha Levick) 

Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Systems and Approaches, APA Handbook of Psychology and Juvenile Justice, American Psychological Association, 2016 (with Julian Ford). 

Psychosocial Interventions for Traumatized Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: Research, Evidence Base, and Clinical/Legal Challenges, OJJDP Journal of Juvenile Justice, April 2016 (with Julian Ford, Patricia Kerig, et al.). 

Stemming the Tide: Promising Legislation to Reduce School Referrals to the Courts, Family Court Review, July 2013.  

The Eighth Amendment Evolves: Defining Cruel and Unusual Punishment Through the Lens of Childhood and Adolescence, University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Policy, 2012 (with Marsha Levick). 

The Decriminalization of the Classroom:  The Supreme Court’s Evolving Jurisprudence on the Rights of Students, The Journal of Law in Society, 2011. 

Creating Positive Consequences: Improving Education Outcomes for Youth Adjudicated Delinquent,Duke Forum for Law & Social Change, 2011. 

The School to Prison Pipeline ... and Back: Obstacles and Remedies for the Re-Enrollment of Adjudicated Youth,New York School Law Review, 2009/10 (with Marsha Levick and Ami Mody). 

Protecting Personhood: Legal Strategies to Combat the Use of Strip Searches on Youth in Detention, Rutgers Law Review, 2007 (with Riya Shah). 

The Power of the Pen”:  Jailhouse Lawyers, Literacy and Civic Engagement, Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, 2006.  

Creative Prison Lawyering:  From Silence to Democracy, Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy, 2004.  

Published Reports 

Reimagining Restitution: New Approaches to Support Youth and Communities, Juvenile Law Center, 2022 (with Lindsey Smith, Nadia Mozaffar et al.). 

Transforming Justice: Bringing Pennsylvania's Young People Safely Home from Juvenile Justice Placements, Juvenile Law Center, 2019 (with Lisa Pilnik, Robert G. Schwartz et al.). 

The Price of Justice: The High Cost of “Free” Counsel for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System, Juvenile Law Center, 2018 (with Nadia Mozaffar, Naomi Goldstein, and Emily Haney-Caron). 

Debtors' Prison for Kids? The High Cost of Fines and Fees in the Juvenile Justice System, Juvenile Law Center, 2016 (with Naomi Goldstein, Emily Haney-Caron, and Jaymes Fairfax Columbo). 

Building Brighter Futures: Tools for Improving Academic and Career/Technical Education in the Juvenile Justice System, Juvenile Law Center, 2015 (with Kate Burdick, Catherine Feeley, et al.). 

Ten Strategies to Reduce Juvenile Length of Stay, Juvenile Law Center, 2015 (with Robert G. Schwartz and Kacey Mordecai). 

Understanding FERPA: Sharing Education Records to Improve Outcomes for Children in the Juvenile Justice System, Juvenile Law Center, 2015 (with Catherine Feeley). 

Embedding Detention Reform in State Statutes, Rules and Regulations, Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2014. 

Trauma and Resilience: A New Look at Legal Advocacy for Youth in the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems, Trauma and Resilience: A New Look at Legal Advocacy for Youth in the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems, Juvenile Law Center, 2014 (with Lauren Fine). 


The Supreme Court Kept Children's and Tribal Rights Top of Mind, Bloomberg Law, 2023 (with Allison Greene). 

Restitution Fails Victims, Communities, and Young People, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 2023 (with Lindsey Smith).  

Attacks on Interrogation Law Ignore Everything We Know About Children, Baltimore Banner, 2023 (with Emily Virgin).  

States Must Abolish Juvenile Fees. They're Putting Families in Debt, Washington Post, 2019. 

Drowning from Fines: Juveniles Also Deserve High Court Protections from Justice System Fees, USA Today, 2019 (with Jeffrey Selbin).    

Placing Juveniles in Solitary Confinement Doesn't Fix Them. In Fact, It Makes Them Worse, USA Today, 2019 (with Jenny Lutz).  

The U.S. Has Been Silencing Black Girls' Voices for Decades, Teen Vogue, 2019 (with Ashley Sawyer).  

They Treat Us Like Dogs: Can Wisconsin Lead the Way in Juvenile Justice Reform, The Root, 2018 (with Sharlen Moore).  

Stop Throwing Kids Into Debtors' Prison, The Dallas Morning News, 2016 (with Alex Piquero).