Youth Court’s Newest Members Ready To Take The Bench

OSWEGO, NY – A baker’s dozen students from around the county are ready to take their place in Youth Court.

Training was conducted throughout last week in the Council Chambers of Oswego City Hall

Sue Coffey of the Oswego Police Department explains about the sections of law the Youth Court members will deal with.Guest speakers included County Legislator Paul Santore, of Oswego; Cindy Albro, of Farnham; Youth Officer Sue Coffey, of Oswego Police; and Oswego County Attorney Rich Mitchell.

After learning about Youth Court and its history, the students studied the various crimes, laws and punishments they will deal with.

They got to see the court in action as current members staged a mock trial on their behalf on Thursday.

On Friday, the youngsters took their bar exam.

Students in grades 9 – 12 are eligible to go through a training program.

“I think they did pretty well. We have a good bunch of kids here,” said Brian Chetney, a youth services specialist with the Oswego City/County Youth Bureau, which oversees the program.

Youth Court is a recognized community diversion program aimed at keeping young offenders out of Family Court. The program is voluntary; the parent/youth cannot be forced to participate.

Oswego County Attorney Rich Mitchell talks about his job with members of Youth Court.It isn’t a fact-finding court; in order to participate in Youth Court the offender first needs to admit guilt. Their peers will decide the amount of guilt, Chetney noted.

Youth Court is 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.

Youth Court can have a positive affect on everyone who takes part, some of the current candidates said.

Casey Fraser will be entering ninth grade at G. Ray Bodley High School in Fulton this fall.

He said he’s excited to get started with Youth Court, too.

A friend who is in Youth Court gave Fraser an application and suggested he apply, he explained.

“He said give it a try and so I am,” he said. “It’s a real worthwhile thing. We need to do something that stops kids from doing stuff wrong.”

His experience in Youth Court likely won’t lead to a career in law, however. Fraser said he hopes to pursue a career in architecture.

Ashley Welsch will be a senior this fall at Oswego High School.

She said she wishes she has joined Youth Court sooner.

“I wish I would have done this a few years ago,” she said. “I want to be an attorney and this is very good experience.”

The experience and helping fellow teens stay out of trouble is the best part of Youth Court, she noted.

“It’s a unique experience,” she said. “Youth Court is all over the state and country. It’s an honor to be a part of it.”

The goal of Youth Court is to prevent kids from continuing the behavior that got them in trouble in the first place, she pointed out.

Members are trained to become judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors and court clerks. Hearings are conducted and real punishments for offenders are handed out.

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.

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, the Youth Bureau shreds the court files and the person’s record is clean.

The most common sentences include community service, writing letters of apology and restitution.

The purpose of the sentence is to deter the defendants from committing further crimes.

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 and schools.

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.

For more information on the program, call the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau at 349-3451 or 1-800-596-3200 ext. 3451.

1 Comment

  1. I was a member of the original youth court back in the 80’ss. This is a wonderful program and I learned how the law works on the other side. I am glad to see the program is still around and hopefully continues in the future.

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