JRS was founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, rooted in a determination to apply the lessons learned rescuing children from the chaos of a collapsed legal system..
Long before Katrina struck, in August of 2005, the juvenile justice system in New Orleans had been exposed and repeatedly condemned as dysfunctional and unfair. In a 1997 New York Times article chronicling the shortcomings of the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court, journalist Fox Butterfield introduced the United States and the world to the Orleans juvenile public defender system. To illustrate the absurdity of public defender practice in OPJC at the time, Butterfield observed the public defender meeting his client for the first time just minutes before the youth's trial began in the crowded courthouse waiting room. The public defender did not "have a file cabinet, a telephone to contact defendants, or a clerk or secretary to help him draft motions or conduct investigations." Butterfield went on to point out the public defender remained "largely silent" during the court proceedings. The "defense table was conspicuously bare: no case files, law books, or even the police report on the defendant, to use to challenge the prosecutor."
JRS' founders wanted to change how children and their families are defended in Louisiana's courts. In the fall of 2006, JRS incorporated as a nonprofit, public-interest law office, and began working to change juvenile defense in Orleans Parish and all of Louisiana.
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