Youth involved in the justice system often have histories of trauma including neglect and abuse. Importantly, there are critical differences in the ways that girls are exposed to, experience, and respond to trauma that require gender-specific consideration. Unfortunately, attorneys representing girls frequently lack the necessary training or tools to apply a trauma-informed and gender-specific approach to case investigation and sentencing advocacy. As a result, courts may lack the information they need to make informed and potentially mitigated sentencing decisions, which can lead to the imposition of lengthy prison terms in adult facilities without gender-specific considerations and care or individualized reentry planning.
Through her Emerging Leader Fellowship, Natasha Felder worked with Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project to strengthen the quality of representation provided to girls facing adult criminal charges in Philadelphia. To that end, she developed a toolkit that provides tangible resources and practical guidelines designed to help attorneys better address the unique needs and challenges facing these girls.
This Emerging Leader Fellowship enabled Natasha to:
- Gather information through interviews, focus groups, mitigation research, and conversations with stakeholders involved in existing coalitions.
- Adapt existing resources for practitioners representing youth to be gender-specific and responsive to girls’ needs.
- Develop a best-practice resource guide that helps attorneys understand the unique needs of their clients, identify and troubleshoot the challenges they may face throughout the life cycle of a case, and identify the facts and circumstances in clients’ histories that may have mitigation value in their defense.