Sandra Simkins and J.C Lore have joined the faculty at Rutgers University School of Law-Camden to develop, create and direct the Children's Justice Clinic. This is an exciting time for the Law School as it begins construction of a new state of the art law school and legal clinic. We fully expect the Children's Justice Clinic to quickly become a catalyst for local and statewide reform within the juvenile justice system. As the Clinic develops, the Clinic and Rutgers University will also expand its advocacy into areas and issues of national concern. As with the inception of any new program, there are many challenges facing the Children's Justice Clinic in the next several years and we seek to draw upon the wealth of knowledge, support, and skill of the local community to develop this soon to be nationally recognized program.
This program serves both an immediate need for the law school community and the city of Camden, New Jersey. The Clinic will be the first children's clinic at the law school and the only juvenile delinquency clinic in the Philadelphia metropolitan region. Camden, located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, was recently ranked as the most impoverished city in the nation despite New Jersey having the highest median income of any state in the country. Although crime rates appear to be dropping, Camden has also been ranked as the most dangerous city in the nation for the previous two years.
Forty percent of Camden's population is under the age of 18 and a majority of those children live below the poverty line. Although Camden youth make up only 6.5% of New Jersey's population under the age of 18, they comprise a staggering 32.6% of the children involved in the statewide juvenile court system. It is hard to imagine a place in greater need of exceptional advocacy on behalf of vulnerable children.
Children involved in the juvenile court system are being drastically impacted by decisions made at this early stage of their lives. The rate of incarceration for children, mostly for non-violent acts, continues to rise at an alarming rate and the disproportionate incarceration of minority youth continues to be a problem plaguing the country. The distinction between the rehabilitative nature of the juvenile court and the penal nature of the adult criminal court continues to blur as negative publicity continues to unfairly and inaccurately paint a picture of the juvenile justice system.
The new Children's Justice Clinic hopes to teach, train and inspire law students to become thoughtful advocates for children throughout the state and country. For those students who become attorneys specializing in other areas of the law, we hope to introduce them to the impact of juvenile justice issues on their community. Additionally, the Clinic will work with both local and state leaders on improving the representation and treatment of at-risk children in Camden and throughout the state. The Children's Justice Clinic will be launched and accepting students in January 2007.