The Long Island Community Foundation (LICF) recently awarded a $15,000 grant to the Huntington Youth Bureau for their Youth Court Program – an alternative to juvenile court for first time youthful offenders. The Huntington Youth Bureau provides out-of-school time academic enrichment, college preparation, job training, counseling, substance abuse prevention and treatment, and recreational services.
Youth courts – where young offenders are sentenced by their peers for minor offenses or violations – are an alternative to traditional juvenile courts and school disciplinary proceedings. Teen peers serve as jurors, judges, attorneys, and advocates in the process, and determine sentences from a wide array of options including requiring the accused to serve as a juror in a subsequent youth court case or complete community service, counseling, or a life skills program. The process allows the offender to take responsibility, be held accountable, and make restitution for violating the law. The program also offers young volunteers the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process for dealing with juvenile misconduct, gain hands-on knowledge of the criminal justice system, and learn about career opportunities. Research shows a decrease in suspensions in schools that use youth courts, and relatively low recidivism rates among participants.
“Youth Courts provide young offenders with a vital second chance, and are effective at reducing rearrests,” says Sol Marie Alfonso Jones, senior program officer at LICF. “Combined with the Huntington Youth Bureau’s support services, its youth court will help young people get back on track.”