Prepared by Ziyad Hopkins, 2015
with funding from the sponsors of the Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellowships in Public Policy
Ziyad Hopkins has worked with the Massachusetts public defender’s office—the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS)– since 1998. After representing adults in Suffolk Superior Court for almost five years, he joined the agency’s Youth Advocacy Division-Roxbury office in 2003 as a trial attorney, representing young people facing criminal accusations. He has also served as the manager of a United States Bureau of Justice Assistance capacity building and strategic planning grant to CPCS to improve the use of data to ensure quality representation. He teaches “Juvenile Law and the Courts” at Wheelock College in the Juvenile Justice and Youth Advocacy Department . He graduated from Northeastern University School of Law (JD) and from Oberlin College (BA). During college, he worked with the Mandela Institute, based in Ramallah, Palestine, documenting the detention conditions of Palestinian prisoners and before attending law school worked as an investigator for the Public Defender Service of Washington, DC.
During his Ian Axford Fellowship, he was hosted by the Ministry of Social Development (Youth Policy Team) and the Ministry of Justice. He explored the role of the Youth Advocate in New Zealand’s youth justice sector. His report is titled “Diversion from Counsel: Filling the Rights Gap in New Zealand’s Youth Justice Model.”
Ziyad’s report provides observation and commentary on the following question: What are the merits of increasing access to Youth Advocates, specialised lawyers for young people facing criminal allegations, within the youth justice sector? The release of the Youth Crime Action Plan 2013-2023 (YCAP) marks a period of reflection and focus on New Zealand’s youth justice sector and the landmark Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 (CYPFA). This policy analysis reviews CYPFA, and the implementation of youth justice, from a rights-based perspective.
Despite the well-earned positive international reputation of New Zealand’s youth justice model, many young New Zealanders miss out on legal advice. Approximately 80 per cent of youth charges are addressed informally, before court proceedings and the appointment of a lawyer. Drawing on interviews and observations from all phases of youth justice—from apprehension through sentencing— the report argues that increasing young people’s meaningful access to trained Youth Advocates can ensure their individual rights when faced with state intervention whilst also promoting youth development. Mindful of budgetary restraints, but also with the need to promote equity, the report recommends five specific actions that can align New Zealand’s youth justice sector with principles expressed in CYPFA; the UN Convention on the Rights of Children; and positive youth development:
For Massachusetts, the New Zealand experience—with the protections of access to legal advice– offers three important opportunities to adapt practice:
Download the full report in PDF format