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The Red Hook Youth Court is a program for young people aged 10 – 18 referred by local schools, community organizations and police for offenses such as assault, shoplifting, vandalism, and truancy. These young people appear before a judge and jury of their peers – other neighborhood teens– who determine fair and appropriate responses. The Youth court emphasizes:
Responsibility: 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.
Paying Back the Community: Youth Court members care about their community and expect the same for their peers. Youth are "sentenced" to restore the harm done to their community through service. For example, a youth caught "tagging" a building may be required to participate in graffiti removal in their community.
Help: The Red Hook Youth Court links young people and their families to social services, such as counseling, job training and mentoring so they can get the help they need to avoid further disciplinary action at their school or program and/or future involvement with the justice system. All social service referrals are made by adult professionals.
Leadership: Youth Court teaches young people how to be leaders. Members are trained in group-decision making, the judicial process and public speaking. Youth who have successfully gone through the Youth Court may also become members.