Queens Youth Court


Overview

The Queens Youth Court trains teenagers to serve as jurors, judges and advocates, handling real- life cases involving their peers. The goal of the Queens Youth Court is to use positive peer pressure to ensure that young people who have committed minor offenses restore harm done to the community and receive the help they need to avoid further involvement in the justice system. The QueensYouth Court hears a range of low-level crimes referred by the New York City Department of Probation, the New York City Law Department (presentment agency for New York City Family Court), and Criminal Court. The majority of cases that come to the Queens Youth Court are for vandalism, trespassing, and and larceny.

The Queens Youth Court is part of the Queens Youth Justice Center. For more information about the center, click here.

How It Works

The Queens Youth Court is a program for young people aged 10 – 18 referred by the Queens Family Court Law Department, probation officers and criminal court for offenses such as vandalism, disorderly conduct and trespassing. These young people appear before a judge and jury of their peers – other neighborhood teens – who determine fair and appropriate responses. Before the Youth Court hearing, the referred youth – the “respondent” – meets with his or her “Youth Advocate,” a young person who represents the respondent throughout the case. During the hearing, the respondent tells his/her story and is questioned by members of the jury. Unlike in a traditional court, the purpose of the jury’s questioning is not just to learn more about the offense, but to understand better what led to the incident, how the respondent feels about his/her experience, and to prompt the respondent to reflect on his/her behavior. After considering all of the information and the respondent’s personal strengths, the jury decides on a fair and appropriate sanction that holds the youth accountable, restores harm done to the community, and assists the youth to avoid trouble in the future. Queens Youth Court staff members closely monitor the completion of sanctions and then report back to the referral source. Most cases move through this process, from intake to resolution, in two months, depending on the respondents’ ability to complete sanctions in a timely manner.

The Queens Youth Court is a restorative justice program that emphasizes:

Responsibility:  The Queens Youth Court teaches young people that actions have consequences. Because this message comes from other young people, it is more likely to be heard and understood.  The youth court process asks respondents to reflect on their actions and understand how their behavior affects others around them.

Restoring the Community: Queens Youth Court members care about their community and expect the same from their peers. Respondents are often sanctioned to restore the harm done to their community through service, apologies and other actions.   For example, youth have been sanctioned to help plant trees in local parks, help community groups set up for local events, and assist in local activities for younger children.

Help: The Queens Youth Court links young people and their families to services such as counseling, and provides workshops to help youths make better decisions and avoid future involvement with the justice system.

Leadership: The Queens Youth Court teaches young people how to be leaders. Members are trained in group-decision making, critical thinking and public speaking.  The program provides a positive opportunity for young people to engage with judges, lawyers, criminal justice officials and the court system. In addition to this, youths who have successfully gone through the youth court program as respondents are encouraged to become members.

Results

In 2012, Queens youth court heard 87 cases. Over 90 percent of respondents completed their sanctions as ordered, including 344 hours of community service. More than 20 young people have served as judges, jurors and advocates.

Partners

The Queens Youth Court opened in January 2012, and takes cases from the neighborhoods of southeastern Queens. Queens Youth Court partners include the New York City Department of Probation, the New York City Law Department and Criminal Court.

Publications

Youth Court Fact Sheet: A short description of the Queens Youth Court.

Youth Court Process: A graphical representation of how youth court works.

Contact
  • New York
  • 520 8th Avenue
  • 18th Floor
  • New York, NY 10018
  • phone: 646.386.3100
  • Syracuse
  • 601 Tully Street
  • Syracuse, NY 13204
  • phone: 315.266.4330
  • London
  • Canterbury Court
    1-3 Brixton Road
  • London, SW9 6DE
  • phone: +44 2076.329.060