Youth Court Group Comes to Order

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After a two-year battle with paperwork and other administrative details, the National Association of Youth Courts has set up shop as a nonprofit based in Baltimore.

The organization – representing youth, teen, peer and student courts – receives most of its funding from four federal agencies, including the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), which established the coordinating group in 1997 as the Federal Youth Court Center.

The newly independent association says more than 1,200 youth courts are operating in 49 states and Washington, D.C., up from 78 in 1994.

Proponents of youth-led courts – which use peer pressure and restorative justice to resolve relatively minor infractions involving theft, vandalism, alcohol use and other crimes – say they are a cost-effective alternative to traditional juvenile justice. A 2002 Urban Institute study, “The Impact of Teen Court on Youth Offenders,” in four states found that graduates had lower recidivism rates compared with teens processed through the regular juvenile justice system, but the study wasn’t able to pinpoint why.

The association provides youth courts with such services as grant application assistance and training for volunteers. OJJDP, the U.S. Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, the U.S. Administration for Children, Youth and Families, and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration funded the association’s first year of operations.

The association has six officers and one staff member. Katie Self of the Sarasota, Fla., Teen Court is the president of the executive board.

Contact: (410) 528-0143,