Project Youth Court is an exciting new community-based, restorative justice program in New Haven, founded by college students and with high school volunteers serving as attorneys, clerks, and jurors. The program deals with first- and second-time misdemeanor offenses by young people.
In this program, youth offenders learn civic responsibility. They directly repair the harm that they caused to their victim(s), while becoming more connected to the community, more remorseful, and more empathetic. They are also held directly accountable to their victim instead of to an abstract concept like “the State.” After their case is over, they also have the opportunity to serve on juries in future Youth Court hearings, allowing them to see the justice system from another perspective.
By removing criminal records, youth courts also offer youth offenders a second chance to realize their potential. This program removes a stigma that may otherwise limit future opportunities and drive them toward further, more serious crimes.
The Youth Court’s partners include New Haven Family Alliance, Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Educational Opportunities Juvenile Justice Law Clinic at the Yale Law School, Slifka Center at Yale, St. Thomas More, and Yale Club of the Suncoast.
Adults do play a role in the program, and adult volunteers, lawyers as well as others, are needed. In fact, it’s a busy summer. The Youth Court’s needs include:
- Lawyers from the community to preside on cases
- Grant writing
- Tuesday night supervision at a courthouse in New Haven
- Recruiting new youth volunteers at local high schools
- Training youth volunteers on restorative justice and the law
If you’d like to volunteer or learn more about volunteer opportunities, contact the executive director, Jane Michaud, at email@example.com.