10th Annual California Youth Summit a Success

The California Association of Youth Courts held its 10th Annual Youth Summit at Pepperdine University in mid-June.

The Summit theme of Resilience, Social Justice and Progress was carried out in workshops on Sex Trafficking, current and past social justice issues, public speaking, and in using art to respond to cyberbullying messages. Adult participants met to address the importance of data collection and worked with Tess and Lisa Michaels from Soceana to learn about the pilot program California will begin to track volunteer hours. Youth who were involved in their teen courts shared how that experience helped them in the positions today.

All 225 participants attended the powerful one man show Cops and Robbers and engaged in discussion following the performance. The play addresses many current social issues around crime, law enforcement, family traditions, racial tensions and how each of us can take action and personal responsibility to improve our communities.
An evening of music, dancing, photo-booths and an ice cream social brought the adults and youth together for a fun evening on the beautiful Pepperdine campus in Malibu. All attendees stayed in campus housing giving everyone a taste of college living. The closing ceremony included the presentation of the student art produced to counter cyberbullying messages with the young artists explaining their art work.

National Center for Youth Law
Powerful New Tool for Examining the Youth Incarceration Data Reveals the Depth of the Problem in the United States

While there is still a long way to go, youth incarceration rates are finally beginning to decline in the United States. Since 1995, there has been a 41% drop in the lock-up rate for kids, and in 2010, the rate reached a 35-year low.1 Part of the advocacy strategy to reduce over-reliance on incarceration for youth has been to use data to raise public awareness of the over-use of incarceration for youth in general, as well as the shocking racial disparities in incarceration rates.

Read more.

*At the time of this post, the link to the online tool in the above article was broken. You can find the tool on the Haywood Burns Institute website.

Arkansas Teen Court Conference Draws 35 Youth and 20 Adult Leaders

NAYC Program Director Jack Levine served as keynote speaker and workshop facilitator for the July 11th Arkansas Teen Court Annual Conference at the University of Arkansas Bowen Law School in Little Rock.

ATCA leaders Scott Gage and Paula Juels Jones gathered representatives from five of Arkansas’ six teen courts for a day-long public policy and program development agenda.  Scott and Paula are sending a report of the event for our website and member dissemination.

Coalition for Juvenile Justice
National Standards for the Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice has released its National Standards for the Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses, concrete policy and practice recommendations for avoiding or limiting court involvement for youth charged with non-delinquent offenses. A status offense is conduct that would not be a crime if committed by an adult (e.g. truancy, running away, violating curfew laws, or possessing alcohol or tobacco).

The National Standards call for an end to all secure detention for these young people. Research shows that status offense behaviors are often the result of unmet child and family needs, and that pushing these youth into the juvenile justice system worsens individual and community outcomes.

The National Standards promote system reform and changes in system culture, and the adoption and implementation of research-supported policies, programs and practices that effectively meet the needs of youth, their families, and the community without unwarranted justice system involvement.

NAYC has formally endorsed these standards and has signed on as a partner for distribution of this important report and its policy reforms.

Photo Essay: A Court System That ‘Saves Lives’
The Asian Lawyer
New York Law Journal

Chirag Bhatia, 16, of the Colonie Youth Court, assisted by Claire Forsyth, 17.

About 150 youth, attorneys, educators and officials flocked to a seminar in Albany last week to celebrate an alternative way for dealing with teen delinquency.

The event was sponsored by the Northern District U.S. Attorney’s Office, the New York State Bar Association’s Special Committee on Youth Courts and the Association of New York State Youth Courts. September is National Youth Court month.

Read more.

Mock Trial Shows Benefits of Teen Court
KEVN, Black Hills FOX
Zack Nugent

Wednesday night, a mock trial was held at the Pennington County Courthouse with Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker and council member John Roberts acting as defendants. Student volunteers say the program has become a wonderful asset.

Read more.

Teen Court, Excellent!
Mission & State
By Karen Pelland

The nine jurors are already seated in the jury box when the defendant walks into the courtroom. She’s wearing jeans, sneakers, a plain white blouse and black-rimmed glasses. She takes a seat at a front table, accompanied by her mother and preteen sister. She has no lawyer.

Teen Court jury in deliberations. (Karen Castillo Farfan)

“Everyone, please rise. The court is now in session,” declares attorney and Teen Court volunteer Judge Carissa Horowitz, perched at the bench in a wood-paneled courtroom inside the Superior Court building on Figueroa Street in downtown Santa Barbara. A large, bronze state seal of California looms above her honor. The jury members raise their hands and the judge swears them in.

Read more.

Teen Court Gives First-Time Offenders A Second Chance
South Dakota Public Broadcasting
By Amy Varland

Juveniles that break the law in South Dakota have an opportunity to keep their records clean. Youths that opt to go through the Teen Court program instead of the traditional juvenile court system can go through the court process alongside their peers who act as their attorneys and jurors in the Teen Court’s restorative justice process. Court officials say Teen Court helps youths learn from their mistakes, helps keep them out of the adult criminal justice system, and keep their futures bright.

Read more.

Teen Court puts Justice in Hands of Offenders’ Peers
Ocala Star-Banner
By April Warren
Staff writer

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, just before the end of the business day, a group of about 20 teenagers filed into the empty second-floor courtroom of Circuit Judge Willard Pope. The defendant slid behind the desk and faced the bench as the jury members found their seats.

But instead of Judge Pope, Assistant State Attorney Victoria Grimes took the bench. The 17-year-old defendant was accompanied by her mother instead of counsel.

The jury members were her peers, all younger than 20, who might be sympathetic to the girl’s case. Not too long ago, they themselves were in the hot seat; serving jury duty was part of their own sentences.

Read more.

Program Helps Students Talk Their Way Out of Trouble
The New York Times

A body of research indicates that lost class time from suspension and expulsion results in alienation and often early involvement with the juvenile justice system, said Nancy Riestenberg, of the Minnesota Department of Education, an early adopter of restorative justice. Studies by many groups have concluded that zero-tolerance policies do not make schools safer

Read more.

Youth Court Seminar
United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of PA

The United States Attorney’s Office in partnership with the Youth Court Support Center (YCSC) at EducationWorks, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and Physicians for Social Responsibility will host a youth court seminar on Wednesday, April 10th, 2013.

The seminar will feature remarks from U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger who will discuss youth courts as a preventative strategy to reduce juvenile crime and terminate the school-to-prison pipeline; Philadelphia City Council Majority Leader Curtis Jones, Jr. will discuss the youth court resolution he introduced, and which was unanimously adopted by the Philadelphia City Council, which calls for youth court expansion; and Eva Gold, Founder of Research for Action and a nationally-recognized expert in the areas of civic and community engagement in school reform, will discuss her organization’s recent evaluation of youth courts. Three panels of experienced youth court practitioners: law students, lawyers, educators, teachers, college students and other professionals will discuss why youth courts are both a preferred disciplinary system, and provide great promise as an academic, socialization and civic engagement program for youth-particularly in low-income neighborhoods.

Event registration.

President Obama Appoints Robert Listenbee, Jr. as OJJDP Administrator

Robert Listenbee, Jr., OJJDP Administrator

Robert Listenbee, who currently heads the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, recently co-chaired Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, which produced the landmark “Defending Childhood” report in December 2012.

Mr. Listenbee is a long-time champion of reforms in the juvenile justice system, including limiting the detention and incarceration of youth.

NAYC extends congratulations to a proven leader for OJJDP at this important time in the lives of our youth!

Two Florida Teen Court Leaders Honored

We are pleased to announce that two outstanding Florida-based teen court professionals have recently been honored for their dedicated service to youth, families and communities.

Jeff Slowikowski, Acting Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention presents Donn Davis Public Service Award to Stephanie Glass.

Katie Self, Founder of the Teen Court of Sarasota (Fl) received the prestigious The Florida Bar Foundation Medal of Honor in recognition of her 23-year career as an advocate for positive youth development.  Among the accomplishments cited in recognizing Katie were her organizational leadership in creating the Florida Teen Court Association and her profound influence nationally as founding President of the National Association of Youth Courts.

Stephanie Glass, Executive Director of the Lake County (Fl) Teen Court.

Stephanie Glass, Executive Director of the Lake County (Fl) Teen Court, was announced as the recipient of the Donn Davis Public Service Award at the OJJDP National Conference. The Donn Davis Award recognizes achievement by a public servant whose leadership exemplifies innovative dedication to the field of juvenile justice. Stephanie currently serves as President of the Florida Association of Teen Courts and is actively involved in public policy initiatives which focus on improving access for youth through a diversity of statewide and community-based strategies.

We at NAYC extend heartfelt congratulations to both Katie Self and Stephanie Glass for elevating the status of our nation-wide movement and their continuing commitment to public policy and program leadership.

Where Teenagers Find the Jury Isn’t Rigged
The New York Times

New York Times Commentary by Tina Rosenberg.  Youth courts do more than simply divert teenagers from juvenile justice: they actively create pro-social behavior.

For Teen Offenders, Hope in a Jury of Their Peers
The New York Times

New York Times Commentary by Tina Rosenberg featuring the Washington, D.C. Youth Court.  Congratulations to Carolyn Dallas and her team members for this excellent coverage.

No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incareration
Annie E. Casey Foundation

On October 4th, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released the report, “No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration.” This excellent document examines the detrimental impacts of America’s over-reliance on incarceration of youth, and will likely help to catalyze a more coordinated national movement toward reform.

To download a copy of the full report, please visit: www.aecf.org/noplaceforkids.

Combining research, data, and testimony, the report’s author Richard A. Mendel has identified six major problem areas and six priorities for reform:

Problem Areas

America’s juvenile corrections institutions subject confined youth to intolerable levels of violence, abuse, and other forms of maltreatment. Nearly 50 percent of states have been sued in the last decade alone for persistent maltreatment in at least one of their institutions. One in eight confined youth reported being sexually abused by staff or other youth and 45 percent feared physical attack according to reports released in 2010.

The outcomes of correctional confinement are poor. Recidivism rates are almost uniformly high, Within three years of release, roughly three-quarters of youth are rearrested; up to 72 percent, depending on individual state measures, are convicted of a new offense. States which lowered youth confinement rates the most saw a greater decline in juvenile violent crime arrests than states which increased incarceration rates or reduced them more slowly. Incarceration in juvenile facilities depresses youths’ future success in education and employment.

A substantial percentage of youth confined in youth corrections facilities pose minimal risk to public safety. Only 25.9% of incarcerated youth have committed violent offenses including homicide, rape, and aggravated assault; all others are status offenses, technical violations, public order offenses, drug offenses, and property crimes—many of these being misdemeanors.

Scholars have identified a number of interventions and treatment strategies in recent years that consistently reduce recidivism among juvenile offenders. None require—and many are inconsistent with—incarceration in large correctional institutions.

Most states are spending vast sums of taxpayer money and devoting the bulk of their juvenile justice budgets—$5 billion in 2008—to correctional institu­tions and other facility placements when non-residential programming options deliver equal or better results for a fraction of the cost.

Despite their exorbitant daily costs, most juvenile correctional facilities are ill-prepared to address the needs of many confined youth. Often, they fail to provide even the minimum services appropriate for the care and rehabilitation of youth in confinement.

Priorities for Reform

Limit Eligibility for Correctional Placements
Commitment to a juvenile corrections facility should be reserved for youth who have committed serious offenses and pose a clear and demonstrable risk to public safety.

Invest in Promising Non-Residential Alternatives
In every jurisdiction, juvenile justice leaders must erect a broad continuum of high-quality services, supervision programs, and dispositional options to supervise and treat youthful offenders in their home communities. Analysis in the report clearly shows that closing large youth prison facilities does not increase juvenile crime rates.

Change the Financial Incentives
States must eliminate counterproductive financial incentives that encourage overreliance on correctional placements.

Adopt Best Practice Reforms for Managing Youth Offenders
In addition to better programmatic alternatives, every jurisdiction must adopt complementary policies, practices, and procedures to limit unnecessary commitments and reduce confinement populations. The report highlights best practices that some states have implemented as alternatives to incarceration.

Replace Large Institutions With Small, Treatment-Oriented Facilities for the Dangerous Few
The limited number of youthful offenders whose serious and chronic offending demand secure confinement should be placed into small, humane, and treatment-oriented facilities.

Use Data to Hold Systems Accountable
Strong data collection must be a central pillar of efforts to reform juvenile corrections systems and to reduce overreliance on incarceration and residential placement

National Juvenile Justice Network

The National Juvenile Justice Network’s has launched its redesigned website www.njjn.org with great new features, resources and partnership links.

The Network’s Fiscal Policy Center provides juvenile justice advocates and their allies with simple, concrete tools to leverage fiscally-minded reforms. The Center includes two major components, Budget Mastery and Communications Tools, that together provide general and in-depth technical assistance to juvenile justice advocates in the areas of budget structure and analysis, as well as messaging and framing strategies.

Teens decide punishment in ‘Teen Court’

NAYC is pleased to feature this excellent coverage of the Duval/Florida Teen Court by HLN’s “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell.”

For additional information contact:
Lawrence M. Hills Jr.
Program Director
Teen & Truancy Court
Court Administration, 4th Judicial Circuit
Office : (904) 630-0730Lhills@coj.net

Please send us links to your media coverage to: nayc@youthcourt.net

Law Day Celebration

Law Week is May 1 – May 7
To maximize the community impact of the ABA Youth Courts Resolution, NAYC urges our members and affiliated network allies to work cooperatively with your state’s/community’s youth/teen court leaders and prepare for cooperative activities building up to partnerships for May 1st Law Day celebrations.

Cooperative ventures with Bar associations can highlight the relationships between private attorneys, the judiciary, law enforcement, law-related educators and community-based youth/teen court program leaders, volunteers and youth participants through media outreach and community events.

The complete American Bar Association’s Law Day guide features a wide variety of materials, event ideas and sample documents which can be use to highlight the value of youth/teen court’s civic education and community outreach priorities.

Download a complete directory of Bar Associations, both state and local.

Please let us know how your Law Day plans are progressing by sending a note (photos welcomed).


For young juvenile offenders, youth courts can be life savers.

Stefan Campagna, now 24, told an audience yesterday at the American Bar Association Midyear Meeting in Atlanta about his teenage turnaround after he was sentenced by peers at a youth court trial.  He was 16 at the time, had been accused of 27 felonies and had initially been turned down as a candidate for going to youth court for resolution.

“I was sentenced to 150 hours of community service and 18 [youth court] jury duties,” said Campagna.  “Half way through my jury duty service, I realized I’m either going to be back here as a defendant again, or on the other side.”

Campagna chose the other side.  He finished high school, graduated from college and is now a second year student at Hofstra University School of Law in New York.

For advocates – laypeople and lawyers, alike – who work with youth courts, they say they frequently see examples of the power of a peer-based intervention mechanism in reshaping lives and giving kids a second chance.

“I have eight attorneys that I work with who started out as juvenile offenders,” said Kathleen Self, executive director of Sarasota County Teen Court in Florida.

Self – who is not a lawyer – has been organizing youth courts for nearly 23 years.  She points to some notable differences in recidivism rates when misdemeanors (for comparable offenses) are handled by youth courts.

She said that in Florida – where there are youth courts in 50 of the 67 counties – the recidivism rate is 12 percent for kids who have a first-time misdemeanor resolved in youth courts, and 42 percent for kids who go through the juvenile court system.  Also of note, the average cost for a youth court appearance, per child, is $550, while the cost per child of appearing in juvenile court is $5,400.

“That’s $70 million savings statewide when teen courts divert kids out of the juvenile court system,” said Self.

Youth courts differ significantly from the traditional juvenile justice system in several ways:  youth courts enlist student volunteers who are trained to take on the roles of lawyers and jurors in the court; the youth offender must agree to the peer-decided sentence, which typically involves restorative justice such as community service and victim restitution; and youth courts are considered a means of “primary intervention” so that kids are diverted from ending up in the juvenile justice system later on in life.

According to Jack Levine, program director of the National Association of Youth Courts, a super-majority of youth court cases do not involve the violence or extreme delinquent behavior seen in cases that typically move through juvenile court.  If not for youth courts, most of these less extreme cases would be ignored and not make it to the traditional juvenile justice court system.

“These [youth court] cases don’t necessarily merit incarceration, but they certainly merit attention.  Most young people will experiment and have a brush or two with illegal behavior.  As responsible adults, it’s our responsibility to say, ‘What would work best?’ The youth court option works better in most cases,” said Levine.

Youth courts started back in the 1970s.  By 1990 there were 50 nationwide.  Now, said Levine, there are 1,050 youth courts across the country, and last year, they served 140,000 kids.

Campagna and a fellow 24-year-old will soon be running one of the nation’s newest youth courts in New York’s Nassau County.

Pennsylvania Bar Association

Youth Courts featured in The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine, a publication of the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

Atlanta Georgia

We’re thrilled to report that the American Bar Association’s House of  Delegates unanimously approved the Youth Court Resolution in their meeting this morning in Atlanta. A truly wonderful Valentine’s Day gift to all of our nation’s Youth/Teen Courts.  Our NAYC-led Seminar on Friday was very well received, with many House of Delegates members in attendance.

Special thanks to Howard Davidson, Director of the ABA’s Center for Children and the Law and the ABA Commission on Youth At-Risk, Chaired by Laura Farber, whose membership provided dedicated leadership in proposing and shepherding this Resolution to such a positive vote. Special thanks, too, to Judge Richard Couzens, President of the NAYC Board of Trustees, for his expert counsel to the drafting committee and representing NAYC membership throughout this process.

Below please see the Co-Sponsoring ABA entities who signed on to the Resolution as well as the final language which went to vote.

  • American Bar Association
  • Commission on Youth at Risk
  • Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice
  • Commission on Women in the Profession
  • Section of Family Law
  • Criminal Justice Section
  • Standing Committee on Public Education

Report to the House of Delegates Resolution

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, territorial, and local governments to create and provide appropriate support for Youth or Teen Courts that, through a nondiscriminatory peer-driven restorative justice process involving family members, diverts youth from the formal consequences of juvenile court petitions, proceedings, adjudications, or juvenile justice sanctions by:

a)      Providing civic education for all participants that builds respect for the rule of law and the legal process, including mentorship and community service opportunities;

b)      Permitting program referrals from prosecutors, probation departments and police, as well as from the courts, and not limiting program eligibility to first-time offenders;

c)      Encouraging judges, lawyers, law students, civic organizations and businesses to recruit youth volunteers and to provide training, other assistance and support to create, sustain and promote programs; and

d)     Supporting national, state, and local research and evaluation on all aspects of these programs.

NAYC is now preparing correspondence to be disseminated to the leadership of Bar Associations nationwide (state and local) to urge them to work cooperative with their state’s/community’s youth/teen court leaders and prepare for cooperative activities building up to partnerships for May 1st Law Day and September Youth Court Month celebrations.

Additional cooperative ventures with Bar associations will highlight the relationships between private attorneys, the judiciary, law enforcement, law-related educators and community-based youth/teen court program leaders, volunteers and youth participants through media outreach and community events