Youth Court is an alternative system of justice designed to hold youth accountable for their actions and to redirect them from negative behavior through positive peer pressure.
Young offenders are given a chance to take responsibility for their actions through community service, restitution, and other educational opportunities affordeed to them by Youth Court. Youth Court is a hands on opportunity for young adults to better understand our judicial system. It provides Justice for youth, by youth.
How does Youth Court work?
Defendant participation in this program is voluntary and requires an advance guilty plea. The program is for misdemeanor offenders between the ages of 7-15 years old. Typical cases heard in Youth Court include criminal mischief (vandalism), petit larceny (shoplifting), and other misdemeanor offenses. Cases can be referred by a judge, law enforcement or probation departments. The offender must complete the sentence imposed by the jury and return to sit as a juror.
Who participates in the Youth Court Proceedings?
Youth Court proceedings involve the offender and students in the roles of judge, prosecutor, defender, clerk/bailiff, jurors and jury foreperson. Members of Youth Court are young people between 13-18 years old, who have successfully completed a Youth Court training program. Areas of instruction include an overview of the criminal justice system, consequences of crime, sentencing issues, rehabilitation as a goal and the operation of Youth Court. The training program concludes with mock hearings to prepare students for participation in Youth Court proceedings.
Why do we need a Youth Court?
Youth Court is designed to provide a community based alternative to the formal court process. It represents a more positive and effective alternative focusing on youth development and accountability. Youth Court holds the offender accountable and seeks to deter them and others from delinquent behavior. Offenders are part of the decision making process and ultimately take responsibility for their actions. The program allows young offenders to avoid a record and learn from their mistakes while participating in a positive community experience.
Youth Court Coordinator
Youth Court operation is overseen by a Coordinator. The Coordinator works with offenders, families, Youth Court volunteers, law enforcement agencies, and others in the community to ensure that Youth Court is effective in its mission to be constructive, rehabilitative, and educational. A Steering Committee, comprised of community leaders, assists in this mission.
Rights of Youth Court Offenders
- Right to a proper Youth Court procedure
- Right to a quick uncomplicated hearing
- Right to unbiased Youth Court procedure
- Right to have parents present
Who are the Members?
- Judge: Presides over the hearing, explains the charge to the jury, instructs the jury on evidence to consider and hands down the jury sentence.
- Prosecutor/Defender: Both investigate the circumstances of the offense, present evidence and make sentence recommendations. The defender represents the interests of the offender and the prosecutor represents the interests of the community
- Clerk/Bailiff: Maintains accurate records of court proceedings, insuring smooth operation of the court and also administers oaths.
- Jury Foreperson: Leads jury deliberations, insures participation of all jurors and that relevant sentencing factors are considered. Jury Foreperson announces the verdict.
- Jurors: Weigh the facts presented and determine an appropriate sentence for the defendant.