Youth Courts Offer a Refreshing Approach to Juvenile Justice

Florida’s juvenile arrest rate is down from 76 delinquency arrests per 1,000 juveniles in 2008 to 52 arrests per 1,000 juveniles in 2012. Some experts attribute it to the implementation of Youth Court, also known as Teen Court, programs throughout the state.
“The goal of youth/teen courts is preventing penetration into the system by young people who can better be served without formal prosecution and detention,” said Jack Levine, who volunteers as program director for the National Association of Youth Courts.
Youth Courts have been in practice since the early 1970’s in America and allow for great benefits:

  • Lower cost to the courts- an average of $480 per participant compared to an average of $21, 000-$84,000 per case in a formal court system [via]
  • Lower recidivism- fewer than 10 percent find their way back into the system compared to 30-70 percent with a case through the formal court system [via]
  • Positive peer pressure through youth juries
  • Conducted during the evening to allow parental involvement

“Diverting them into teen court or youth court where they are handled outside the formal court process is good because it keeps them from having a formal record,” said Irene Sullivan, a retired circuit judge in Pinellas County who has experience handling juvenile delinquency cases. “It’s a more therapeutic and rehabilitative way of treating juveniles.”

In order for teens to participate in a Youth Courts, they must admit guilt, the victim(s) must agree to the process, and the crime cannot be classified as a second-degree felony.
Sentences can include community service hours, an open-court apology, counseling, and a specific number of times they must serve on a jury in the future. Participants charged with a misdemeanor have roughly 90 days to complete their sentences while participants charged with a felony have about 120 days to complete sentences.

Avery Klein is a digital and social media intern at Prichard Communications. She is from Springfield, Missouri where she attends Missouri State University and is studying public relations, advertising and promotions, and ethical leadership. She loves traveling, discovering new restaurants, social media and her two darling dogs.
*Image at top via Flickr user CileSun92

Updated: February 08 2018