Juneau Youth Court offers glimpse of alternative legal system for teens

Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2002

An example of youth justice at work will happen Saturday when members of the Juneau Youth Court sponsor a presentation from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Dimond Court House.

Juneau Youth Court is a group of teen-agers trained in the law to determine consequences for first-time juvenile offenders. JYC members will demonstrate a sentencing procedure and answer questions about how Youth Court works.

Refreshments will be served and youths in grades seven through 12 can sign up for free training to qualify as a Youth Court advocate.

"This is a positive and inspiring opportunity to see involved young people making a difference in our community," said Glen Ray, JYC executive director. "National statistics demonstrate that first-time offenders who must face their peers in a formal proceeding are a lot less likely to ever break the law again than those who are processed by the traditional justice system."

Juneau Youth Court training is in the afternoons during the first two weeks in August. Sessions will run from 1 to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, Aug. 6-9 and Aug. 13-16, at the Bill Ray Center downtown. The legal education is free and high school credit is possible. Those who complete the course must pass a student bar exam to qualify as an advocate.

Juneau Youth Court is entering its second year of operation in Juneau; there are youth courts in 15 other communities in Alaska. First-time juvenile offenders who have committed misdemeanors, including alcohol offenses, can opt for Youth Court. They are assigned a youth advocate who presents their circumstances to a three-judge panel, which determines a sentence within certain guidelines. The sentence must be completed within 30 days or the case is referred back to Juvenile Probation.

All juvenile cases are closed and confidential, so the public demonstration by the youths involved in JYC is a rare opportunity to see how the alternative justice program works.

The event also is intended as a public "thank you" to supporters of JYC, which is funded by the Alaska Division of Juvenile Justice, as well as community organizations and businesses such as Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp 2, Alaska Peace Officers' Association, Alaska State Employees Association, Glacier Valley Rotary, Alaskan and Proud Market, Alaska Electric Light and Power, and individual members of the Juneau Bar Association. Youth Court members also raised $1,000 in June during a car wash at Kmart.

For more information about Juneau Youth Court, the public event or upcoming training, call 586-3122 or 789-1435.

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