Youth Justice Court
As an alternative to suspension, criminal and family court appearances, and potential violations of probations, youth who commit low-level infractions can appear in Youth Justice Court (YJC). There, they are tried and judged by youth trained as prosecutors, defense attorneys, and juries. An adult serves as the judge. Through this restorative justice approach, youthful offenders gain a clear understanding of the impact of their actions, take responsibility, and make amends.
The YJC participants become peer leaders, learn about the criminal justice system, and frequently go on to pursue careers in criminal justice and law.
YJC in Schools
Queens Defenders holds youth justice courts in three Rockaway Schools. Our team works with teachers and administrators to prevent school suspensions. When a student violates the school’s code of conduct, they are referred to YJC where their peers carry out a trial. When the jury finds the student guilty, it hands down a consequence, which often includes an apology letter to teachers and classmates, helping teachers during lunchtime, or sitting on the jury for the next session of YJC. Most often, students referred to YJC later become consistent participants in future trials.
YJC in the Community
Queens Defenders also holds youth justice courts in four Queens libraries, including Cambria Heights, Far Rockaway, Jamaica, and Laurelton. In the community youth justice courts, youth who commit low-level crimes are referred by local precincts. This referral occurs in place of being charged and sent to criminal or family court. YJC participants conduct a trial. When the jury finds the youth guilty, it hands down a consequence and once completed, the youth’s case is dismissed. Consequences may include apologies to the victim and their family, participation in mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, and community service that builds on the youth’s strengths and interests.
Interested in Joining YJC?
Teens interested in learning about the justice system are encouraged to apply. Here, you will learn to be an advocate for your peers, improve your resume, and gain valuable experience all while helping your community. This program will empower you to become a leader in both school and in the community.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our YJC programs are currently virtual. You can sign up for any of the following programs below:
- Central Library Virtual Youth Justice Court – Every Monday @ 4:00 PM
- Cambria Heights Library & Laurelton Library Virtual Youth Justice Court – Every Thursday @ 3:00 PM
- Queens Public Library for Teens (Far Rockaway) Virtual Youth Justice Court – Every Thursday @ 4:00 PM
Choose the closest location on the application form to join a Youth Justice Court virtually
Apply now: YJC Application