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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: December 13, 2016 04:15 PM
From: Senator Lawrence M. Farnese, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Youth Courts Study
In the near future, I will be reintroducing legislation directing the Joint State Government Commission to study the use of youth courts in Pennsylvania’s education and juvenile justice systems.

Youth courts are student-run alternatives to juvenile justice and school disciplinary systems. Students are trained by lawyers, law students, college students, teachers and others to perform all court functions (judge, bailiff, jurors, etc.). Students ask questions to find the facts, determine the harm and impose a restorative disposition to fix the problem. Youth courts use positive peer pressure to correct disruptive behavior while keeping at-risk youth in school and out of the formal juvenile justice system. A mock youth court hearing conducted by students from A.M.Y. at James Martin School in Philadelphia can be viewed here.

Youth courts have been shown to be a cost-efficient and successful diversionary program in Pennsylvania and elsewhere for decades. There are more than 1,200 youth courts in the United States, but fewer than 10 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have youth courts. Pennsylvania’s increased deployment and utilization of youth courts could result in greatly reduced corrections and school disciplinary costs, as has been seen in other states.

My legislation will direct the Joint State Government Commission to establish an advisory committee consisting of public education officials, the legal community, the law enforcement community and experts on the issues of youth courts and juvenile justice to study the use and effectiveness of youth courts as a reformative juvenile justice tool. The goal of this study is to encourage a comprehensive understanding of best youth court practices, evaluate cost-savings, and develop recommendations.

Please join me in sponsoring this important resolution.

Introduced as SR32