Town of Ramapo, New York
Questions? call: 845-357-5100

“JUSTICE FOR YOUTH BY YOUTH”

PURPOSE OF YOUTH COURT

 

The Town of Ramapo is reintroducing the Youth Court program for 2019. Youth Court educates teenagers about the criminal justice system.  Participants are students who are interested in law, law enforcement and the criminal justice system.  Students receive hands on training from attorneys, police officers and other experts in order to learn about the legal system. Students develop public speaking skills, while providing an important service to their peers and community.  Once trained, students will assume the roles of prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and other court personnel and hear actual cases and dispense justice for young offenders in our town. 

Youth Court is designed to reduce repeat incidents of juvenile crime. It diverts offending youth from the juvenile justice system, provides an alternative to the Family Court process and deters further contact with the police.

Positive peer pressure in the Youth Court setting is constructive and educational. It provides for a more immediate and meaningful effect on the individual than the traditional juvenile justice system. Youth Court is based on the premise that young people want to do what is right when making decisions. Even those who make the wrong choice are often gratified to learn that they have the right to make amends in Youth Court.

Problem youth with minor offenses are often overlooked, but can be appropriately handled in Youth Court, benefiting the community, the police and themselves.

 

HOW DOES YOUTH COURT WORK?

By agreeing to participate in Youth Court the offender will appear before an assigned peer judge. Trained youth defense counsel will be assigned to represent the offender and youth prosecutors will present the evidence. A sentence will then be rendered.


WHAT BENEFITS ARE OBTAINED BY OFFENDERS?

 

By agreeing to proceed in Youth Court, an offender obtains certain benefits. Benefits include a decision formulated by peers aimed at assisting the young person in desisting from criminal conduct, and an opportunity to participate positively in the criminal justice system, rather than as an object of that system. This is offered as an alternative to Family Court and provides for a speedy local disposition to cases involving youth.

 

WHAT IS THE YOUTH COURT?

 

The Youth Court is a voluntary alternative to the criminal justice system for young people who have committed a crime or an offense. The goal of Youth Court is to intervene in early anti-social, delinquent, and criminal behavior, and to reduce the incidence and prevent the escalation of such behavior.

Youth Court strives to promote feelings of self-esteem, a desire for self-improvement, and to foster a healthy attitude towards rules and authority. Youth Court also offers a law-related education program for young people who seek careers in law and/or criminal justice.

 

WHAT HAPPENS IN YOUTH COURT?

 

A youth, who has admitted guilt to a crime or an offense, appears for a sentencing hearing before an assigned judge of his/her peers. The youth will be accompanied by his parent(s) or guardian. He/she will be represented by a youth defender. The interest of the community will be represented by a youth prosecutor. The proceedings will be overseen by a Youth Court Clerk/Bailiff.

 

The youth judge is presented with evidence relevant to sentencing, deliberates, andpasses sentence. Sentencing typically includes community service (up to forty-eight hours),specialized assignments such as preparing an essay or letter of apology relating to theincident and restitution. The case is finalized upon successful completion of the sentence.

 

WHO PARTICIPATES IN YOUTH COURT PROCEEDINGS?

 

            Youth Court proceedings involve an offender and members in the roles of judge, prosecutor, defender, and clerk/bailiff. Each of these individuals is under age nineteen. P.O. Matthew Murphy and Assistant Town Attorney Beth Finkelstein serve as coordinators.

 

            Cases are referred by any Ramapo Police Officer. The referral is evaluated by the Police Department to determine if the case meets Youth Court criteria. Typical cases that may be heard in Youth Court include petit larceny (shoplifting), criminal mischief (vandalism), criminal possession of stolen property, harassment, unlawful possession of marihuana, and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

 
VOLUNTEER REQUIREMENTS

 

            Members of the Youth Court are volunteers, ages thirteen (13) through nineteen (19) years, who are enrolled in a public or private school and live in the Town of Ramapo. They also need to complete an application process that is reviewed by the Town of Ramapo Police Department, and be interviewed by the Youth Court steering committee. Members would then need to complete a multi-week law-related education training program given by the Ramapo Police Department.

            Areas of instruction include an overview of the criminal justice system from arrest through appeal, the organization, jurisdiction, and operation of Youth Court, the Penal Law, the consequences of crime, and sentencing issues, including aggravating and mitigating circumstances, rehabilitation as a goal, and the nature and type of evidence that is admissible and probative in sentencing. The training program concludes with mock hearings to prepare members for participation in Youth Court proceedings. Youth Court may also include mock trials and mock trial competitions. Youth Court members will assume the following roles, on a rotating basis:

 

Judge: Presides over the sentencing hearing, explains the criminal charge to the offender, determines what evidence and factors to consider in determining a sentence, and sentences the offender in accordance with Youth Court guidelines.

 

Prosecutor: Represents the interest of the people of the State of New York, investigates the circumstances of the offense and background of the offender, presents evidence at the sentencing hearing, and makes a sentencing recommendation to the Judge.

 

Defender: Represents the interests of the offender, explains the process of Youth Court to the offender, investigates the circumstances of the offense and background of the offender, presents evidence at the sentencing hearing, including mitigating evidence, and makes a sentencing recommendation to the Judge.

 

Clerk: Maintains accurate records of court proceedings.

 

Bailiff: Ensures smooth operation of court, and administers oaths to all parties.

 

Youths interested in learning more about the Town of Ramapo Youth Court please contact:

 

School Resource Officer(s):

 

Officer Daniel Lynch / Suffern High School

Officer Michael Anton / Ramapo High School

Officer David Small and Officer Robert Navarro – DARE Officers

 

Youth Court Advisors:

Officer Matthew Murphy at the Ramapo Police Department at (845)357-2400 ext. 521

Assistant Town Attorney Beth Finkelstein at finkelsteinb@ramapo.org

 

 

YOUTH INTERESTED IN APPLYING TO THE YOUTH COURT:

Please return application for membership form together with two reference forms to Town of Ramapo Youth Court, 237 Route 59, Suffern, New York 10901 or by e-mail youthcourt@ramapo.org.

 

ADMINISTRATION

 

The Town of Ramapo Youth Court is overseen by the Town of Ramapo Police Department & Town of Ramapo Attorney’s Office.

 

POLICE OFFICER MATTHEW MURPHY                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

ASSISTANT TOWN ATTORNEY BETH FINKELSTEIN