WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – A group of 13 White Plains teens will help peers who have run into trouble take responsibility for their actions when the teens launch the White Plains Youth Court later this month.
The Youth Court, run by the White Plains Youth Bureau, is a court diversion program where teens between the ages of 13 and 18 will act as the prosecution, defense and jury panel. When a juvenile gets arrested and charged with a low level, non-violent offense, the Westchester County Department of Probation may suggest he or she attend Youth Court instead of family court. The idea, Chanelle Hyde of the White Plains Youth Bureau said, is to promote positive peer leadership and youth development amonst teens under the age of 18. The first session is scheduled for Sept. 27.
“These are usually first-time offenders, kids that are really not repeat offenders that are being referred to the Youth Court by probation,” Hyde said. “They are not deciding whether or not the youth is guilty. They’ll be coming to youth court to receive a method to take responsibility for their actions.”
The Court will recommend sanctions for juvenile delinquancy and first-time offenders, such as community service.
A legal professional will oversee court proceedings, which will take place at the Department of Public Safety headquarters on 77 S. Lexington Ave. on the third Thursday of every month through May.
The 13 members of the Youth Court spent six weeks this summer training to serve as the court’s defense and prosecution teams, judges, bailiff and clerk. Pace Law School, Berkely College and the Center for Court Innovation all helped them complete their training.
“The experience provided by this Youth Court will have a positive and long-term impact on the teens who participate because it will give them an opportunity to see firsthand all aspects of our legal system,” Mayor Thomas Roach said in a statement.
A graduation ceremony will be held for the first class of Youth Court members Thursday at police headquarters from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
“It makes me especially proud to see these young people graduate,” Roach said in the statement.
The White Plains Youth Court is one of five in Westchester County and more than 1,050 nationwide.