Why Youth Court?

New Haven Youth Court follows a national model put into practice in 49 other states that has been tailored to New Haven. We have worked with the National Association of Youth Courts to provide a set of best practices for all of our clients. A youth court model brings significant benefits to the community, offender, and victim.

How it works? 

Youth Courts look like a normal courtroom except trained youth volunteers act as jurors, bailiffs, clerks, and attorneys. An offender who chooses to participate in Youth Court receives an appropriate sentence, such as volunteer hours, participation in programs, or service on a future youth jury. The client’s progress is then tracked after the hearing to ensure that the restorative contract is carried out, and the participant’s criminal record is then removed. Throughout the hearing, an adult volunteer, often a judge or attorney, oversees the process.

Benefits to the Community

As compared to traditional juvenile justice systems, Youth Courts yield lower recidivism rates. A 2002 report by the nonprofit policy research organization Urban Institute analyzed 500 cases and concluded the following:

  1. In Alaska, recidivism for youth court cases was around 6%, compared with around 23% for cases handled by the traditional juvenile justice system
  2. In Missouri, recidivism for youth court cases was about 9%, compared with about 28% for cases handled by the traditional juvenile justice system (Butts, Buck, and Coggeshall 2002).

Youth Courts have achieved these results with lower per capita cost when including adult and teen volunteer labor and the benefits to the community of service-based dispositional options. A 2009 report released by the Justice Policy Institute found that the average cost for the traditional adjudication route is more than $88,000 per year per youth with incarceration. The dispositional route of youth courts, on the other hand, normally averages around $1,000 per youth. This lower cost excludes the benefits of the community service provided by the juvenile offenders (Justice Policy Institute 2009).

Benefits to Youth Offender

Youth offenders learn civic responsibility by participating in a youth court. They directly repair the harm that they caused to their victim while becoming more connected to the community, more remorseful, and more empathetic. They are also held directly accountable to their victim such as through an apology letter instead of an abstract concept like “the State”. After their case hearing is over, they have the opportunity to serve on juries for future Youth Court hearings, allowing them to see the justice system from another perspective.

By removing their criminal records, youth courts offer youth offenders a second chance to realize their potential. It removes a stigma that may otherwise limit future opportunities and drive them toward further crimes.

Benefits to the Victim

Offenders work to repair the harm done to the victim rather than simply receive a punishment.