does Youth Court Work?
Cases dealing with misdemeanor
crimes that have been committed within the city limits are referred directly
to the Riverside Youth Court from the Riverside Police Department, Riverside
County Probation Department and the Riverside Unified and Alvord Unified
School Districts. Once a juvenile is referred to youth court, the juvenile
and his or her parent will meet with youth court staff to review the program
requirements and sign all required paperwork. To be eligible for youth
court, the juvenile must first admit guilt and the parent must consent
in writing to their child’s participation in the program.
The case is then scheduled for an adult judge trial or a peer jury trial. If
the case is tried with the adult judge model a youth defense attorney will
represent the juvenile. The prosecutor will also be a youth attorney; adult
attorneys are available to mentor the youth attorneys prior to the trial. In
this model, each youth attorney makes an opening statement, the juvenile
testifies and is cross-examined, both attorneys recommend a disposition, and
the jury considers the facts of the case. The jury deliberates until it
reaches a consensus in determining a fair disposition for the juvenile
respondent. The peer jury model does not use youth attorneys. Instead, the
members of the jury are presented with the facts of the case in advance and
prepare relevant questions. Each juror may ask questions directly to the
juvenile respondent. The deliberation process is the same as it is in the
adult judge model.
The primary function of the Riverside Youth Court is to determine a fair and
restorative sentence for the juvenile respondent. Dispositions will include
mandatory future jury duty, and one or more of the following: community
service, letters of apology, essays, educational workshops, counseling,
restitution, drug testing, jail tour, curfew restrictions, behavior contract,
and other creative dispositions.
When the disposition is completed, the respondent’s case will be closed. No
criminal charges will be filed in the traditional juvenile justice system
and the juvenile will have no criminal record.
The Riverside Youth Court convenes twice a month.
All youth court volunteers will receive training in the juvenile justice
system, the concept of restorative justice, and the deliberation process.
Each volunteer will receive 6 hours of community service for attending the
training and an additional 3 hours of community service each time he/she
participates in a court session.