Wednesday, February 22, 2006 - 8:28am
Madison – Mayor Dave Cieslewicz announced today that an innovative Youth Court program will be coming to the Allied Drive neighborhood in March. The program is targeted at juvenile offenders between the ages of 12 and 16 years old who have pled guilty or no contest to certain City ordinances, providing them with an alternative to paying a fine or having a municipal conviction record.
“The Youth Court is an innovative program to intervene in the lives of young offenders and help them get back on track,” said Cieslewicz. “In combination with other community-based policing efforts, the Youth Court is another tool the city can use to address juvenile crime in the Allied Drive neighborhood.”
The Allied Community Youth Court will hear cases every month involving neighborhood youths who are ticketed for violating Madison City ordinances such as trespassing and disorderly conduct. Madison’s Municipal Court Judge will refer cases to the Youth Court. Instead of paying a fine, participants in Youth Court will receive a sanction such as community service from a jury of their peers.
The Youth Court uses a “circle sentencing” technique based on restorative justice principles. The jury is comprised of three to four neighborhood youth volunteers, an adult Allied resident or member of the program’s Steering Committee, and the Youth Services facilitator. The jury sits in a circle with the offender and his or her parent or guardian to hear the case. In certain cases, the victim may choose to be involved in the circle sentencing as well.
The program is funded through a City of Madison Police Department Weed and Seed grant. Youth Services of Southern Wisconsin is administering the program. Youth Services already administers successful Peer Courts in Sun Prairie, DeForest, and Cottage Grove. Youth Services will train and provide on-going support to the volunteers, ensure that the offenders successfully complete their sentences, and maintain regular contact with the Municipal Court Judge.
The Youth Court was developed with assistance from Allied Drive community leaders. In addition to the youth volunteers on the jury, there is a Steering Committee made up of adult and youth Allied residents, JFF Social Worker Rita Adair, and Langston Evans, the Boys & Girls Club Allied manager.
Training to be a Youth Court juror will be held Saturday, February 25th from 10-4pm at the Dane County Parent Council/Head Start building. Youth Services is still recruiting adult and youth volunteers to help the Allied Community Youth Court be successful. Individuals interested in volunteering or learning more about the Youth Court can contact Sheri Gatts at 608-245-2550, ext. 213.
- George Twigg608-266-4611