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Youth Court: A National Movement

NCJ Number
Paula A. Nessel
Date Published
12 pages
This bulletin presents an overview of youth courts in the United States, their benefit within the legal profession, and the national movement towards the creation and enhancement of youth courts.
Started around 1976, youth courts utilize young people serving as jurors, as well as attorney, judge, bailiff, or other officer of the court. Young offenders voluntarily choose youth court, with parental approval as an alternative to the criminal justice system. Most youth courts are based in the juvenile justice system or a community setting. In the 1990s, youth courts began spreading rapidly across the country. Youth courts offer the active learning of law-related education through hands-on experience with the justice system. Young offenders and the juveniles who determine their sentences are practicing good citizenship through community service. Research shows that youth courts promote understanding of the legal system, reduce recidivism, and encourage participants to accept responsibility for their actions. Local, State, and Federal commitments to youth court indicate they will continue to spread rapidly and provide a positive alternative to traditional juvenile justice and school disciplinary procedures.