Constitutional Rights of Juveniles

According to the U.S Constitution, 14th Amendment, Section I: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.  No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of the law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Youth have the right to:

Medical and mental health care: OJJ has the responsibility to maintain the health, welfare, and rehabilitation of youth in its care.  Mental health services include trained staff providing services that may include the following:

  • emergency mental health services
  • a professional evaluation and development of a treatment plan
  • periodic follow-up evaluations
  • regular mental health services, including treatment

Treatment: All youth in our care have the right to treatment to strengthen pro-social behaviors which will aid in their rehabilitation.

Protection from harm: OJJ is responsible for maintaining safe environments for our youth.  This means protection from harm from themselves, each other, and staff.

Freedom from abusive and arbitrary discipline: The use of excessive force or corporal punishment violates the youth’s due process rights.  Youth have the right to be free from threats, taunts, random strip searches, and abusive and arbitrary discipline.

A free and appropriate public education: The state must also provide youth with an adequate educational program.  Youth must receive all the rights to special education afforded to youth and citizens not in custody.  (See the section on Education Services)

Access to Courts: Youth have a constitutional right to access to courts, including access to attorneys.  Facility staff cannot read attorney-client mail or place restrictions on visits between youth and their attorneys.

Decent living conditions: The state must provide youth with decent living conditions.  This includes, but is not limited to, heating and cooling, clothing, privacy, food, sanitation, hygiene, and recreation.

The right to investigation and response: Youth have the right to investigation and response including procedures to address complaints.