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Youth courts: collaboration and prevention, the key to success

April 26, 2023

By Dimarie Alicea-Lozada

Previously, Trending Topics featured a series about children in the courts and the programs state courts have implemented to improve children’s interactions with them. One such collaborative method is the use of youth courts. Partnerships among state agencies, courts, and nonprofit organizations could be the key to preventing juveniles from entering the criminal justice system. The report, Cross-branch collaboration identifies five components of state-level cooperation:

  1. Shared understanding;
  2. Commitment to a process;
  3. Focus on intermediate outcomes;
  4. Face-to-face dialogue; and
  5. Trust building.

Some states have started working with at-risk youth to prevent them from entering the juvenile criminal system. The Comanche County Teen Court partnered with the City of Lawton, Oklahoma to provide educational programs that allow for first-time juvenile offenders charged with misdemeanors to be sentenced by peers. The peer jury can sentence the offending youth to issue an apology, write an essay, perform community service, participate in jury duty, and/or take classes that target the offenses. This program was selected as a 2023 ONE Awards Finalist and will receive a cash grant from Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits.

The Alamance Juvenile Opportunity Bridge program in North Carolina is another example of collaboration between state agencies, courts, and nonprofit organizations. This program helps “up to 30 at-risk juveniles, including some on probation for misdemeanors, the chance to take career exploration classes – such as cosmetology, mechanical, nursing, electrical, HVAC, culinary arts, plumbing, and auto repair – at Alamance Community College instead of performing traditional community service hours.” The purpose of the program is to educate students and create a career path of success for them.

The Elmira Youth Court program is a diversion program for young people in New York. Their goal is to deescalate conflict and reduce their chances of becoming a delinquent by giving juvenile participants a second chance. If they successfully complete the program, they will not have a delinquency record. Elmira Youth Court sentences include community service, writing an essay or a letter of apology, and classes. “Areas of instruction include an overview of the criminal justice system, the organization, jurisdiction, and operation of Youth Court, the penal law, the consequences of crime, and sentencing issues.” The program partners with students through their schools, which distribute applications for Youth Court membership.

Does your juvenile court collaborate with local agencies? Share your experiences with us at or call 800-616-6164. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Vimeo.