The Ontario County Youth Court has been serving young, first time offenders from Ontario County for over 15 years. Youth Court is a voluntary alternative to the traditional criminal justice system for youthful first-time offenders who have committed a violation or non-violent misdemeanor. The goals are to intervene in early anti-social or delinquent activities, reduce the incidence and teach new behaviors and coping skills.
This unique program is designed to promote education to youth about the judicial process, promote accountability for actions and reinforce responsibility to society through community service and educational sentencing. Volunteers may sentence offenders to community service, apologies, essays, drug and alcohol awareness workshops, counseling and on-line learning. YC is a genuine collaborative effort in Ontario County—volunteers are trained by community professionals from the legal and criminal justice sectors and referrals are made by probation, Ontario County Sheriff, Student Resource Officers (SROs), and police.
Youth Court requires an admission of guilt and functions as a sentencing hearing only. Proceedings involve youth volunteers acting as judge, bailiff, jurors, prosecution and defense. Offenders must be willing to take responsibility for their actions and voluntarily choose the youth court option as a diversionfrom probation or family court. Families are also required to participate in the process by attending the court appearance with their child.
The YC diversion is extremely successful—91% of youth complete sentencing requirements, while 91% avoid future contact with the criminal justice system. Offenders do more than make amends for misdeeds; they have the opportunity to learn deeper lessons about their role in the school and the community as they engage in constructive sentences imposed by their peers.
Volunteers complete 20 hours of training provided by community volunteers from the legal and criminal justice system. These youth are recruited from all nine of the public school districts in the County, private schools and home schooled youth and are offered training twice a year. Volunteers connect positively with community role models while learning important leadership, conflict resolution, and critical thinking skills that prepare them for becoming a civically engaged adult. They see the cause and effect of their actions on the school and community and how crime and violation of school rules diminish both. Volunteers gain the skills that last a lifetime-conflict resolution, critical thinking and public speaking, while learning the value of civic engagement. Youth Court is an opportunity for youth voice to be heard as volunteers are real decision makers and have real impact on juvenile crime.
Program Benefits to Youth and the Community:
· Youth Court helps to alleviate the burden on probation and family court, allowing more attention to serious cases.
· Youth Court allows a first time youthful offender to remain outside the traditional criminal justice system, to make amends, and continue their lives with a "clean slate".
· Youth (both offenders and volunteers) have the opportunity to learn about the legal and justice systems and develop understanding and respect.
· Peer delivered, meaningful sanctions educate and build competencies that develop the skills necessary for productive citizenry.
· Youth Court serves volunteers as an opportunity for civic engagement, while building leadership, public speaking and conflict resolution skills.
· Youth Court is a cost effective way to serve both defendants and volunteers. The cost of non-secure detention costs $270-$450 per day. An average 30-day stay is $9,000 per offender. That funding can enable twenty youth to understand and right their wrongs and to build the skills needed to avoid crime for a lifetime. Youth Court spends $270-$400 per youth annually.
Youth Court has gained credibility and strengthened collaborations throughout the communities it serves. The benefits to volunteers are realized and encouraged by all school districts. Provided sustainability, the Ontario County Youth Court program will continue to flourish and to be a model Youth Court program to meet the needs of defendants and volunteers.
The Youth Court Program functions under the umbrella agency of the Partnership for Ontario County, Inc. with the mission of creating, supporting and administering alliances to cultivate positive social change.
We focus on: Education, Community Benefit and Economic Development
Where we are: Ontario
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