Colonie Youth Court
Public Safety Center
312 Wolf Road
Latham, New York 12110
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 and 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 to become members of the court. Top of Page
A youth, who has admitted guilt to a crime or an offense, appears for a sentencing hearing before a jury of peers. The jury is presented with evidence relevant to sentencing, deliberates, and passes sentence. Sentences typically include community services and counseling, and stress rehabilitative goals. Top of Page
Youth Court proceedings involve an offender, jurors, and members in the roles of judges, prosecutors, defender, clerk/bailiff, and jury foreperson. Each of these individuals is under age eighteen. An adult serves as Coordinator. The offender must complete the sentence imposed by the jury, and in addition, must sit as a juror on at least one, and possibly several, cases of other offenders. The remaining jurors are drawn from any young people who wish to volunteer. Jurors do not take a course of instruction. Rather, they hear and see the evidence, listen to instructions from the judge, retire to deliberate in private, and agree on a sentence. Top of Page
Cases are generally referred by judges, police, and probation departments to the Coordinator, who accepts cases meeting established criteria. Typical cases that may be heard in Youth Court include shoplifting, criminal mischief, larceny, and vandalism. Top of Page
The jury may impose a sentence that includes community service, restitution (monetary or in-kind), and attendance at classes or counseling sessions. The jury cannot sentence any youth to a detention facility or jail. Top of Page
Members of Youth Court consist of young people who have successfully completed a multi-week law related education training program. Areas of instruction include an overview of the criminal justice jurisdiction, and operation of youth court, the penal laws, the consequences of crime, and sentencing issues, including aggravation 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 mocking hearings to prepa members for participation in Youth Court proceedings. Youth Court members will assume the following roles, on a rotating basis.
JUDGE: Presides over the sentencing hearing, explains the criminal charge to the jury, instructs the jury on what evidence and factors to consider in determining a sentence, and sentences the offender in accordance with the jury's verdict.
PROSECUTOR: Represents the interests of the people of the community, investigates the circumstances of the offense and background of the offender, presents evidence at the sentencing hearing, and makes a sentencing recommendation to the jury.
DEFENDER: Represents the interests of 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 jury.
VICTIM ADVOCATE: Represents the rights and interests of the victim, is responsible solely to the needs of the victim, and acts as a liaison between the victim and the youth court process.
JURY FOREPERSON: Leads deliberations of the jury, ensures participation of all jurors, and that all appropriate sentencing factors are addressed, mediates disputes among jurors, calls for a vote during deliberations, and announces the jury's verdict.
CLERK/BAILIFF: Maintains accurate records of court proceedings, ensures smooth operation of court and administers oaths.Top of Page
By agreeing to proceed in Youth Court, an offender obtains certain benefits, and waives certain rights that otherwise would attach in traditional criminal justice proceedings. Benefits include a decision by a jury of 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. Rights waived in Youth Court may include the right to an attorney, to a trial for determination of guilt, and to request a closed proceeding (for young people under age sixteen). Top of Page
Youth Court is supervised, and daily operations are overseen, by a Director. The Director works with offenders, families, jurors, members, law enforcement agencies, and others in the community to ensure that Youth Court is effective in its mission to be constructive, rehabilitative, and educational. An advisory board and a board of directors assist in this mission and in formulating operational procedure and policy. The Director of Youth Court is Violet Palombo and she can be reached at (518) 782-2638. Top of Page