What is Youth Court?
Cattaraugus County Youth Court serves as a voluntary alternative to the Juvenile Justice System for youth who are first-time, non-violent offenders. There are two sites in the County Program for community-based hearings. The site in Machias handles hearings for the northern half of Cattaraugus County, while hearings for residents in the southern part of the Cattaraugus County are held in Little Valley.
Youth Court hearings are conducted to determine only the consequences for an offense. The respondent must admit guilt or culpability to the offense, as charged, prior to acceptance for a Youth Court hearing. Youth Court is NOT a trial to determine guilt or innocence. The respondent must voluntarily agree to have their consequences determined at a Youth Court hearing. These policies help to ensure a positive atmosphere for both the team members and respondents.
The Youth Court hearing is staffed and conducted by middle and high school youth, who have successfully completed the Youth Court training course and have been sworn in as Youth Court Team Members. Team members then fill the traditional courtroom roles of:
- Jury Foremen
The Youth Court Program Coordinator supervises the Youth Court hearing and daily operation of the Youth Court Program, as well as the case supervision of the respondent's performance of sanctions.
Youth Court in Your Area
There are over 1,000 Youth Courts in operation in the United States. There are over 80 Youth Courts operating in New York State alone. The Cattaraugus County Youth Bureau implemented their county wide Youth Court program in 1998. Since that time, we have trained Youth Court Team Members from the Gowanda, Randolph, Ellicottville, Franklinville, West Valley, Salamanca, Cattaraugus-Little Valley and Pioneer school districts.
Youth Court Team Training
Upon applying for membership on the Youth Court Team, interested individuals will be registered for the next Youth Court Training Session. The training course will cover:
- Youth Court Orientation
- The Justice System and Penal Code
- Roles and Responsibilities of Courtroom Personnel
- Confidentiality Law and Issues
- Public Speaking Skills
- Critical/Moral Reasoning Exercises
Following successful completion of the training course, participants will be eligible to serve as a Youth Court officer and juror. The Youth Court hearings are scheduled on an "as needed" basis and are held in the Cattaraugus County Center in Little Valley. Youth Court is held on Tuesday evenings, typically once or twice a month. Team Members report in at 6:15 p.m. and hearings usually end by 7:30 p.m. Participants are not required to attend every hearing night, however, once a participant signs up for a hearing, they are committed to attend.
Youth Court Team Members
Team Members have the opportunity to:
- Serve as positive role models for their peers
- Become positive assets to their school and community
- Develop and enhance public speaking, moral reasoning and creative problem solving skills
- Understand the United States Justice and Courts Systems
- Gain valuable experience for college and careers
How to Volunteer
If you are between the ages of 12 and 16 and want to serve as a positive role model for your peers, school and community, you may be eligible to join the Youth Court Team. Youth Court Team Members are required to:
- Complete the Youth Court Training Course and attend all training sessions
- Participate at Youth Court Hearings that they have signed up for
- Abide by the Youth Court Code of Ethics and uphold the integrity of the Youth Court Program at all times
- Have written consent and support from their parents or guardian to participate
The Cattaraugus County Youth Court Program is made possible with the support of the Cattaraugus County Legislature and with funding from:
- Cattaraugus County Youth Bureau
- Cattaraugus County Department of Social Services
- New York State Office of Children and Family Services Youth Development Program
For more information regarding the Cattaraugus County Youth Court program or becoming a member, please contact the Program Coordinator at (716) 938-2617 or by completing the contact form.