OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego City-County Youth Bureau sponsored a training class recently for new members to Youth Court.
More than a dozen middle school and high school students completed the week-long training classes sponsored by the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau in the Council Chamber at City Hall.
Youth Court is a Family Court diversion program aimed at reducing juvenile delinquency in the city and county of Oswego.
The court’s members are trained to become judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors and court clerks. Sixteen members are assigned a case; eight of them are potential substitutes in case someone can’t make it. Also, if one of the members knows the defendant, a different court member is assigned.
“They hear real cases of youthful offenders who are referred by local law enforcement agencies or schools for first-time minor offenses,” explained Brian Chetney, executive director of the Youth Bureau.
Sentences are based on attitude of the defendant, age, outside circumstances, punishment received at home and what was done to make up for his/her actions.
When a defendant reaches the age of 16 (and they’ve stayed out of trouble), the Youth Bureau shreds the court files and the person’s record is clean.
In addition to the benefit of helping their communities and influencing their peers in a positive way, members of Youth Court will learn or improve their public speaking, interviewing and writing skills.
“It’s about keeping kids out of Family Court and keeping them on the right track,” noted one student.
It provides members a valuable experience, she added.
“I feel that Youth Court is good for our community,” said Derek Caramella. “It serves a purpose in the juvenile justice system.”
“I am interested in law and wanted to get some experience to see if I want to go into something like this as a career,” Alyssa Lapetino said.
They covered the different positions in the court and what each position does; what Youth Court is about and the laws they will be dealing with.
About Youth Court
Youth Court is a recognized community diversion program aimed at keeping young offenders out of Family Court, according to one of the program’s coordinators, Sam Crisafulli, Youth Services Specialist.
It’s is a national program. Oswego’s is the second oldest program in New York State of New York. Oswego’s Youth Court has been around for about 34 years. Currently, it has more than 60 members. The new class will be sworn in at a later date.
It was one of the few such programs in the country.
Research has shown that youth who go through the Youth Court process “are very unlikely” to be repeat offenders, Crisafulli pointed out.
The program gives young offenders who stay out of trouble “a fresh start,” he said.
Youth Court handles about 50 cases a year; the court handles cases of youth from age 7 to 15.
“It’s really hard to say exactly,” Crisafulli said. “It was pretty busy earlier this year but it’s slowed down recently.”
Youth Court isn’t a fact-finding court, according to Chetney.
It’s a system, backed by police, where juvenile offenders who have committed a minor crime and have admitted their guilt are tried by their peers in a court of law, he explained.
“Anything greater than a misdemeanor cannot be given to us,” he added.
Hearings are conducted and punishments are imposed.
“Youth Court holds offenders accountable for their actions,” Crisafulli said.
In the Youth Court process, there are a variety of sentences that can be imposed; the most common include community service, writing letters of apology and restitution. Others include educational projects and informational videos.
The Youth Court process is strictly confidential. The goal is to prevent kids from continuing the behavior that got them in trouble in the first place.
The advantages of Youth Court would be that defendants don’t have to pay lawyer fees, there is no record kept on file, and the most punishment they can have is several hours of community service and possibly reparation fees, Chetney said.
Offenders can come from anywhere in Oswego County.
Referrals come from the New York State Police, Oswego County Sheriff’s Department, City of Oswego Police Department, Oswego County Probation, Fulton City Police Department, Central Square Village Police and all nine school districts.
If someone decides they don’t want to go through Youth Court, their case is kicked back to the arresting officer and then Family Court.
The 2016 Youth Court class and their school districts are as follows:
Annaliese Archer – Fulton
Andrew Baker – Oswego
Anthony DiBlasi – Oswego
Jenna Bradshaw – Oswego
Harley Brinkman – Oswego
Derek Caramella – Oswego
Mark Delong – Oswego
Zachary DeMott – Oswego
Lauren Devinney – Oswego
Aiden Franco – Fulton
Seth Godfrey – Fulton
Alyssa Lapetino – Oswego
Makayla Libbey – Oswego
Madelyn New-Rhinehart – Fulton
Brady Slimmer – Oswego
Presley Slimmer – Oswego
For more information about the program, call the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau at 349-3451 or 1-800-596-3200, ext 3451 or e-mail [email protected]