Saturday, December 23, 2006

Youth Courts

This morning's Seattle Times has a front-page story about a youth court in Lynnwood, where teenage volunteers service as judge, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and jury in proceedings to determine the sentences of other teens who have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and infractions. Teen courts put youngsters at the mercy of their peers, Seattle Times, Dec. 23, 2006. One benefit: teenagers who are "tried" in these courts have a much lower recidivism rate than others.

Washington's youth courts are set up under RCW 13.40.580 - .640. They are "diversion units," not true "courts." A list of youth courts in Washington is here.

For information about youth courts nationally, see the Federal Youth Court Program. The site includes a 2002 study: Jeffrey A. Butts et al., The Impact of Teen Court on Young Offenders. According to a fact sheet, there are now over 1100 youth court programs in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

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