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Youth Courts: A National Youth Justice Movement

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 63 Issue: 7 Dated: December 2001 Pages: 54-56,58,112,113
Scott B. Peterson; Michael J. Elmendorf II
Date Published
December 2001
6 pages
This article highlights youth courts for young people who have committed their first misdemeanors and/or offenses.
Youth courts are the current trend and a voluntary alternative to the juvenile justice system. Youth courts strive to promote self-esteem and the desire for self-improvement, and to foster a healthy attitude toward rules and authority. Schools, police departments, probation departments, juvenile and family courts, and nonprofit organizations operate these courts. The most successful are those that are community-based and include participation from a wide range of organizations and agencies within that community. Juvenile offenders and youths volunteer to be jurors and members of the youth court. Sentencing is designed to hold youth accountable with the recognition that peer pressure has a powerful influence on adolescent behavior. Typical cases include larceny, criminal mischief, vandalism, minor assault, possession of alcohol, minor drug offenses, and truancy. Youth courts also offer a civic opportunity for other young people in the community who want to actively participate in the community decision-making processes for dealing with juvenile delinquency. Youth courts allow peers to determine the appropriate sentencing for other youths. Although they have been in existence for over 25 years, youth courts have increasingly become a fixture in many communities. More than 250,000 youths have participated as both offenders and volunteers in youth courts during recent years, according to a 2001 survey conducted by the National Youth Court Center. There are four recognized models of youth courts: Adult Judge, Youth Judge, Peer Jury, and Tribunal Model. Colonie Youth Court in Albany, New York operates as the Youth Judge model, in which youth act as judge, attorneys, clerk/bailiff, and members of the jury. Sentences usually include community service and counseling. Offenders must be younger than 18, admit guilt, and have committed their first misdemeanors and/or violations. The final component of their community service, serving as jurors on a subsequent case, allows for positive participation by offenders in the criminal justice system. 4 references