“’You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.’ This familiar phrase, frequently heard on television and in movies, reminds us of what most Americans know and take for granted – that all people facing the prospect of incarceration have the right to effective legal representation. The Supreme Court has affirmed this right, and the legitimacy and fairness of our justice system depend on it.
“Nowhere is the right to counsel more important than when children are charged with committing acts of delinquency or criminal conduct. All children make mistakes, but our juvenile justice system recognizes, indeed it rests fundamentally on, the possibility of redemption. We want children to take responsibility for their actions, but we also want to help them learn from their mistakes and give them the chance to grow into productive citizens.”