Court For Kids?

By Dave Kaplan, Staff Editor

Last week’s New York Times Opinionator discussed an alternative method in dealing with first-time, non-violent, juvenile offenders: Youth Court.  This is a system where cases involving youthful offenders (age range varies by state) are heard by the offender’s peers—generally, those who have previously been through the same process.  Similar to the 1980s Nickelodeon television program “Kids Court," in which youth filed grievances to be settled by their peers,  Youth Courts’  judges and juries are composed of youth.  Unlike the television show, though, the consequences for youth in Youth Court are more substantial, and potentially life-altering.   Adjudication in a Youth Court provides the opportunity to avoid entering the juvenile justice system, where, evidence shows, the habits of criminal activity are more likely to be learned due to the power of peer influence.  But do these Youth Courts actually work?   The answer, unfortunately, is difficult to discern, as evidence supports opposing factions regarding the use of Youth Courts.


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