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Movie spotlighting juvenile justice system screened in Colorado

While most believe that the juvenile justice system works in the best interests of underage offenders, this isn't always true. A movie that puts the spotlight on the failings of the juvenile court system has been seen in private screenings around Colorado and is being used to raise awareness about the criminal defense, or lack thereof, for juveniles across the country.

"Kids for Cash" focuses on one particular county in Pennsylvania, giving a behind-the-scenes look at what can happen when juveniles do not have adequate representation in the court system. Children do not always understand the consequences of not having legal representation and often waive that right only to realize the impact later.

Statistics show that approximately 45 percent of juveniles do not have representation when they appear in court. Without proper representation looking out for their rights, juvenile offenders do not always even get a chance to testify in court and can end up trapped in the juvenile justice system longer than necessary. According to a spokesperson for the organization Juvenile Law Center, featured in the film, the movie is quickly gaining traction as a way to raise awareness among court official and legislators in the juvenile court system.

Court officials are currently trying to get "Kids for Cash" shown in private screenings in other states and to Department of Justice workers in Washington D.C. The hope is that the more those involved in the juvenile justice system understand what is really going on with the children inside it, more effective changes will be able to be made so that the system can start to work in the best interests of the juvenile offenders who come through it.

As this movie shows, having someone to look out for the rights of those accused of juvenile crimes can make a big difference in the way cases are handled and the long-term consequences for the children. Understanding the way the juvenile law system works, including its pitfalls, is a crucial step in preparing an adequate defense.

Source: The Abington Journal, "‘Kids for Cash’ film becomes national lesson" Mark Guydish, Feb. 10, 2014

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