On Wednesday, December 9th, I inducted 24 new student members and welcomed back 50 returning members of the Huntington Youth Court in a ceremony held at Huntington Town Hall. Now celebrating its sixteenth year of operation, the Huntington Youth Court has 74 members (representing each high school in the Town of Huntington) and has inducted 582 Youth Court members to date.
The Youth Court Program, initiated in 2000, is aimed at holding youth accountable for misconduct and preventing teen violence, while at the same time providing an educational experience about the legal process. The program’s coordinator, Maria Danisi, works with high school volunteers who serve in a simulated courtroom proceeding to determine sentencing for first-time, non-violent offenders. Members rotate in groups of 20 and perform as defending and prosecuting attorney, judge, bailiff and jury.
An average Youth Court participant will hear cases on low-level misdemeanors such as shoplifting or vandalism. The offender has already pleaded guilty to the crime and has agreed to be judged by a jury of his/her peers. The jury may impose a sentence that includes community service, a written or verbal apology to the victim, written essays pertaining to the crime, counseling sessions, a jail tour, mandatory participation in a peer discussion group and mandatory jury duty.
Since the program’s inception, Youth Court volunteers have heard 378 cases and they have handed out an average of 100 sanctions to youth offenders each school year – with a combined total of more than 400 volunteer hours for trials alone per year.
For more information or if you are interested in joining the program, please contact Maria Danisi at (631) 271-5547 or via e-mail to: [email protected] .
(Photo Caption: I'm administering ‘The Oath of Office’ to the 2015 Youth Court Council Inductees)