Mayor de Blasio Announces Creation of New Youth Court in the Bronx

October 5, 2017

Youth courts train teenagers to adjudicate low-level offenses involving their peers and help prevent further justice involvement

NEW YORK—Mayor de Blasio announced funding for a new youth court in the Bronx, which will train young people to serve as jurors, judges and attorneys as well as to adjudicate  real-life cases involving their peers. The announcement came at a town hall in the 15th Council District in the Bronx.

“Every other borough in the city has a youth court and now we’re making sure the Bronx has this resource too – so young people can access important services, develop leadership skills, and help their peers stay out of trouble,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Young people must have confidence in the criminal justice system. That starts by understanding how it works and by seeing themselves as a part of the administration of justice.”

The program will be administered by the Center for Court Innovation, which currently operates youth courts in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. The Bronx is the only borough that currently does not have a youth court.

In all other boroughs, youth courts provide an opportunity for teens to develop leadership skills, become community leaders, and help their peers avoid justice system involvement without compromising public safety. The court is estimated to cost around $300,000 per year.

Youth courts, which began operating at Brooklyn’s Red Hook Community Justice Center in 1998, handle low-level offenses committed by first-time offenders that would typically be heard at Family Court. The Center for Court Innovation currently operates five youth courts in New York City and one in Newark New Jersey. The goal is to address youth crime while also helping those in trouble access services, make amends and stay out of future trouble. 

Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said, “Youth court not only helps young people take responsibility for their actions and reduces collateral consequences of a criminal record; it also shows them how the criminal justice system works and how they can play a vital role in it as lawyers, judges and jurors. It is a welcome addition to the many reforms that we are implementing in the Bronx.”

“I am excited that a new youth court is finally coming to the Bronx – this is a wonderful next step as we continue to reform our criminal justice system,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said. “The Council remains committed to making our city more fair and just for all New Yorkers.”

“It’s long past time for the Bronx to have a youth court,” U.S. Representative Eliot Engel said. “The establishment of a youth court will provide our students with a window into how the criminal justice system works, teach valuable lessons about accountability and citizen participation, and perhaps even steer some of our young men and women toward careers where they can reform and improve the system themselves. It’s a wonderful learning opportunity and I applaud Mayor de Blasio for providing the funding necessary to bring it to our borough.”

“The impact youth courts can have on our communities can’t be overstated,” said U.S. Representative Joe Crowley. “These programs give young people a better understanding of our justice system, while offering young offenders the opportunity to reform themselves to ensure they become productive members of our society. It’s incredibly important that every borough has access to these services, and I applaud the city for making the investment to bring a youth court to the Bronx.”

“This is an important opportunity to engage youth and provide an alternative to the criminal justice system for first time offenders. It will help low-level offenders access needed services, learn accountability, and make restitution if need be. It will also help youth better understand the law and its implementation by promoting civic engagement and leadership skills. The new youth court in the Bronx will train and provide real life experience right in their community to future jurors, attorneys and judges. I thank the Mayor for his efforts in bringing the first youth court to the Bronx,” said U.S. Representative José Serrano.

“I commend Mayor de Blasio for investing in the leadership potential of Bronx youth with today’s announcement on a new youth court,” said U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat. “Few processes are more integral to our American democracy than the right to have a case heard before a jury of peers. The addition of a youth court in the Bronx will offer these young people a chance to have their cases heard and adjudicated by their peers as well as train participating youth on how to serve as jurors, judges, and attorneys – thus acquiring invaluable leadership skills along the way.”

“I am very pleased that the Bronx will finally be getting a youth court. This program provides youth who commit a low-level offense an opportunity to learn about the criminal justice system, while being held responsible for their actions," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "I thank Mayor de Blasio for funding this program and giving youth in the Bronx access to an alternative program that prevents recidivism."
“I applaud the mayor for providing funds for a youth court for the Bronx. This court will have a positive impact in the Bronx by helping to prevent teens from being involved in more serious offenses and keep them out of the criminal justice system,” said Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary.

Assembly Member Michael A. Blake said “This announcement of a youth court in The Bronx is a game changer that will provide young people a chance for justice and fairness.  I commend Mayor de Blasio and Eric Cumberbatch for hearing the voices of Bronxites to provide this bold action of criminal justice following our continual advocacy for our residents.  I especially want to highlight the leadership of Community Board 6 District Manager John Sanchez who made this initiative his top priority to provide young people a voice and a second chance. Now, our youth at critical points of life will have the tools to more fairly participate in the process. By restoring confidence in how community justice is administered, young men and women of the Bronx will get to believe that their block won't block their blessing and their zip code won't deny their destiny. When organizations like the Center for Court Innovation and Mayor de Blasio’s Office of Criminal Justice fight for our youth, our young brothers and sisters grow to be leaders who are #BuildingABetterBronx and make sure #EveryOneSucceeds.”

“Focusing on enhancing public safety by diverting low-level offenders from the court system and giving our youth the skills and opportunities they need to be successful, the Center for Court Innovation’s youth court model will be welcomed to the Bronx with open arms,” Assembly Member Latoya Joyner said. “I appreciate Mayor de Blasio’s decision to bring this important initiative to the Bronx and look forward to seeing it fully implemented.”   

Assembly Member Luis R. Sepúlveda said, “I'm glad that Mayor de Blasio and his administration appreciates the value of supporting youth courts, which have proven themselves valuable beyond measure in other boroughs and will be a major benefit for the youth of the Bronx. Using youth courts not only helps ease the burden on our overworked court system, but can very well head off future problem with the law when teens are dealt with by their peers, and offered additional outside services to head off eventually winding up in the adult court system. Thank you, Mr. Mayor!”

“Safe neighborhoods are built on strong relations between law enforcement and the community. The creation of a youth court in the Bronx is absolutely a step in the right direction. I applaud Mayor de Blasio for investing in our youth today and helping pave the way for a solution to violence in our communities” said Assembly Member Victor M. Pichardo.

Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Chair of the Public Safety Committee said, “Youth court is an innovative approach to discipline and diversion that is a welcome addition to the Bronx's alternative to incarceration efforts. Through this program, court-involved youth will have an opportunity to understand the potential consequences of their actions without living with the real life repercussions. I thank Mayor de Blasio for expanding this program to the Bronx and for his commitment to giving young people the opportunity for a second chance.”

Council Member Ritchie Torres said, “Youth courts have the potential to change the way in which young people view the justice system in New York. Perhaps more importantly, they have the potential to fundamentally challenge our assumptions of how to address crime from within our communities. The Bronx now has a tremendous opportunity to include our youth in these conversations by directly involving them in the process.”

“We’re making strides to become the safest community possible, but more can always be done,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Jr. “I commend Mayor de Blasio for his commitment to making the Bronx safer, especially for our youth.”

“Youth court is an important part of engaging young people in civic life,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen. “It’s also important to educate them on the criminal justice system and rights within the system that they are entitled. I applaud the Mayor for bringing youth court to the Bronx and I look forward to its positive influence on our community.”

“Bringing youth court to all five boroughs is an excellent, forward-thinking measure to use positive influence from peers in order to prevent youth from entering into a cycle of more severe interactions with the justice system. It is my hope that intervention through this method will have a profound positive impact on the futures of at-risk youth in our community,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams.

Greg Berman, Director of the Center for Court Innovation said, “The Center for Court Innovation is excited to offer young people in the Bronx who have committed minor offenses with a pathway out of system involvement and towards productive citizenship. The new youth court will help young people learn about accountability, repair harm and co-produce justice in their own communities.”
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