News Release

Youth Court: Civic Engagement and Character Education Through Juvenile Accountability
For Immediate Release: 11/28/2001

The American Youth Policy Forum with the American Bar Association, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, American Probation and Parole Association, Constitutional Rights Foundation/Chicago, and the Urban Institute will be sponsoring a forum on youth courts Monday, December 3, 2001 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC from 11:45 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. There is an increasing awareness that juvenile crime in our country needs a collaborative response from government and the community. Youth court, one of the fastest growing crime intervention programs in the nation, offers ways to engage the community in a partnership with the juvenile justice system to respond to juvenile crime by increasing the awareness of delinquency issues on a local level and by mobilizing community members and youth to take an active role in addressing the problem. Youth court is a program in which youth who have committed a crime or are engaging in problem behavior are questioned, defended and sentenced by their peers. In youth courts, youth may actually serve as judges, prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, and jurors on real cases.

Youth courts have gained momentum over the past decade. In 1994, there were 78 youth courts operational in America. Currently, there are more than 850 youth court programs operating in district-level juvenile justice systems, schools and community-based organizations in 46 states and the District of Columbia. This explosion in the number of jurisdictions implementing youth courts was spurred when federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs/Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), and the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) allocated resources in support of the concept in the mid 1990s.

The December 3rd forum on Capitol Hill will allow policymakers to gain greater insight into the youth court program as they witness a group of youth from Colonie Youth (New York) Court and the Time Dollar Youth Court in the District of Columbia re-enact a recent youth court case. Researcher Jeffrey A. Butts, Ph.D. from the Urban Institute in Washington, DC will report preliminary findings from the “Evaluation on Teen Courts” project, which was funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and conducted by the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center. Judge Ernestine Gray, New Orleans Parish, President of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and Mr. Robert Hirshon, President of the American Bar Association will discuss their organizations’ endorsement of the program, while Mr. Robert Hirshon, will also debut a new Youth Volunteer Training Package developed by the ABA and funded by OJJDP specifically for youth courts. Terrence S. Donahue, Acting Administrator, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention will give an update on the federal government’s support for youth court and upcoming national youth court initiatives, including the National Youth Court Conference in April 2002 and the 12-Month Public Awareness Campaign that the National Youth Court Center are conducting and promoting. A resolution on youth courts passed by the Constitutional Rights Foundation/Chicago will also be presented to Mr. Donahue during this event.

Individuals with inquiries concerning this forum can contact Tracy Godwin Mullins, National Youth Court Center; c/o American Probation and Parole Association, c/o The Council of State Governments; P.O. Box 11910; Lexington, KY 40578-1910; Phone: (859) 244-8215; Fax: (859) 244-8001; Email: tgodwin@csg.org.