The Clinton County Youth Court Program
The Clinton County Youth Court Program is a voluntary diversion program for youth under the age of 18 who are charged for the first time with an offense. Youth Courts accepts violations, misdemeanors, low level felonies as well as non criminal offences. To be eligible for the program, the youth must admit to the crime. If determined appropriate, a hearing is held in which trained youth, known as Youth Court members, fill the courtroom roles such as defense attorney, prosecuting attorney, judge, clerk/bailiff and jury members. At the end of the hearing, the jury members determine an appropriate sentence for the charged youth based on the information presented. The goal of the program is to prevent delinquency through positive peer influence.
Youth are referred to the program by local Law Enforcement Officials, the Probation Department, the Department of Social Services and schools. The youth offender and their parent or guardian must attend an intake meeting with the Youth Court Project Coordinator. If the referral is determined appropriate for the program, a hearing will be scheduled. The youth and their parent or guardian will attend an attorney meeting prior to the hearing.
Youth Court members have attended training classes and passed an exam in order to become a member. Members run the courtroom by filling all of the courtroom roles including clerk/bailiff, judge, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, jury foreperson and juror. The hearing includes testimony from both the offender and the parent or guardian.
Following deliberation by the jury, a sentence is determined. A Youth Court sentence includes up to 25 hours of community service and a jury duty assignment for 1 or 2 hearings. The sentence may also include:
- Letters of Apology
- Essay Assignments
- Educational Classes (i.e. Peer Pressure, Anger Management, Stress Management, etc.)
All community service hours are supervised by the Project Coordinator. Youth Court members and Youth Court offenders often work together on projects. Education classes are taught by the Project Coordinator.
The Project Coordinator remains in contact with the referral source until the youth has completed the sentence. Once complete, letters are sent to both the youth offenders’ family and referral source.
Youth Court members are Clinton County youth in grades 7-12 who have attended training courses and passed an exam. Once trained, youth are part of a pool of approximately 50 Youth Court members. Youth from this pool are assigned to hearings by the Project Coordinator. Members run the courtroom by filling all of the roles including clerk/ bailiff, judge, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, jury foreperson and juror.
Youth must be willing to make a voluntary commitment to the program for one year. Besides participating in hearings, members are required to participate in at least 3 Youth Court sponsored community services activities a year.
New member training is typically offered twice a year. The law-related training covers an array of topics and will prepare members to assume the Youth Court roles. Once a member, youth have the opportunity to participate in specialized training to assist with certain roles such as attorney, judge, jury foreperson and clerk/bailiff.
Through training and participating in the program members develop:
- Public speaking and presentation skills
- Individual and group decision making skills
- An understanding of their civic responsibilities
- Knowledge of the criminal and juvenile justice systems
Anyone interested in becoming a Youth Court member must complete a Membership Application