Newark Youth Court
The Newark Youth Court trains teenagers to serve as jurors, judges, and advocates, handling real-life cases involving their peers. The goal of the Newark Youth Court is to use positive peer pressure to ensure that young people who have committed minor offenses restore harm done to the community and receive the help they need to avoid further involvement in the justice system. The Newark Youth Court hears a range of low-level offenses referred by the Newark Police Department, the Newark Municipal Court and Newark Public Schools. The majority of cases that come to the Newark Youth Court are for truancy, simple assault (fighting), and disorderly conduct.
The Newark Youth Court is part of Newark Community Solutions. For more information about Newark Community Solutions, click here.
How It Works
The Newark Youth Court is a program for young people ages 10 – 18 referred by the Newark Police Department, the Newark Municipal Truancy Court, and Newark Public Schools for offenses such as curfew violations, vandalism, disorderly conduct, and truancy. These young people appear before a judge and jury of their peers – other neighborhood teens – who determine fair and appropriate responses. Before the Youth Court hearing, the referred youth – the “respondent” – meets with his or her “Youth Advocate,” a young person who represents the respondent throughout the case. During the hearing, the respondent tells his/her story and is questioned by members of the jury. Unlike in a traditional court, the purpose of the jury’s questioning is not only to learn more about the offense, but also to better understand what led to the incident, how the respondent feels about his/her experience, and to prompt the respondent to reflect on his/her behavior. After considering all of the information and the respondent’s personal strengths, the jury decides on a fair and appropriate sanction that holds the youth accountable, restores harm done to the community, and assists the youth to avoid trouble in the future. Newark Youth Court staff members closely monitor the completion of sanctions and then report back to the referral source. Most cases move through this process, from intake to resolution, in two months, depending on the respondent's ability to complete sanctions in a timely manner.
The Newark Youth Court is a restorative justice program that emphasizes:
Responsibility: The Newark Youth Court teaches young people that actions have consequences. Because this message comes from other young people, it is more likely to be heard and understood. The youth court process asks respondents to reflect on their actions and understand how their behavior affects others around them.
Restoring the Community: Newark Youth Court members care about their community and expect the same from their peers. Respondents are often sanctioned to restore the harm done to their community through service, apologies, and other actions. For example, youth have been sanctioned to help plant trees in local parks, help community groups set up for local events, and assist in local activities for younger children.
Help: The Newark Youth Court links young people and their families to services such as counseling, and provides workshops to help youths make better decisions and avoid future involvement with the justice system.
Leadership: The Newark Youth Court teaches young people how to be leaders. Members are trained in group-decision making, critical thinking and public speaking. The program provides a positive opportunity for young people to engage with judges, lawyers, criminal justice officials and the court system. In addition to this, youths who have successfully gone through the youth court program as respondents are encouraged to become members.
Since the launch of the program in 2009, the Newark Youth Court has served more than 450 respondents. Additionally, youth court members and respondents contributed more than 1,700 hours of community service hours at soup kitchens, after school programs, local community events, urban gardens and parks.