County of Marin - News Releases - Youth Court

For Immediate Release
November 06, 2014

Marin Youth Court Commended for Decade of Success

Supervisors’ resolution celebrates program’s 10th anniversary

San Rafael, CA – Since 2004, Marin County teens who make poor choices and get in trouble with the law for the first time can receive a sentence from their peers rather than a judge. The program, called the Marin County Youth Court, was commended November 4 for a successful first decade by the Marin County Board of Supervisors.

Administered by the Marin YMCA, the Youth Court allows teens who commit minor misdemeanors to face a jury and legal counsel consisting entirely of other teens. Every participant in the Youth Court, aside from the presiding judge, is under age 18.

“The program provides an opportunity for teens to get together in a pro-social setting with others who are going through the same thing,” said Kevin Lynch, the Marin County Probation Department’s Director of the Juvenile Services Division.

County Probation uses the program as its primary intervention for low-risk, first-time juvenile offenders and has referred hundreds to the program over the past 10 years. The system works: 92 percent of Youth Court participants do not reoffend.

“The Youth Court is about restorative justice,” Youth Court Director Don Carney reminded court participants as he opened a recent Thursday night court session. “We’re not here to punish anyone. We’re here to help them make better decisions about their future choices.”

The theme of restorative justice throughout the court proceedings is hard to miss. Teens who go through the Youth Court have already admitted guilt, and the court’s community and respondent advocate – replacing the role of a prosecutor and defense attorney – work side by side to come up with a sentence that will foster rehabilitation and reconciliation. The peer-issued sentences typically consist of community service and serving on the jury for other cases.

Lynch said the ability to refer low-risk juvenile offenders to programs such as the Youth Court has freed up resources at the County level, allowing the Probation Department to spend more time and energy on moderate and high-risk cases that require ongoing attention and supervision. The low-risk teens who participate in Youth Court do not.

At the end of a recent court session, the presiding judge – a volunteer attorney from San Francisco – read a closing statement. There was a brief pause when the attorney thought the statement had finished, but Carney quickly pointed him to a line on the last page. “Remember,” the attorney said, “You are a valued member of the community and we all want what is best for you.”

In addition to the YMCA and the Probation Department, the Youth Court receives support from the Marin County District Attorney's Office, the Office of the Public Defender, the Marin County Bar Association and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission.

The Youth Court will celebrate its 10-year anniversary on November 7 with a luncheon at the Meadow Club in Fairfax, which will feature Chief Justice of California Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye as the keynote speaker. Tickets for the event are still available.

For more information on the YMCA Marin County Youth Court, contact Don Carney at (415) 459-9622 or email dcarney@ymcasf.org.

Contact:

Kevin Lynch
Director of Juvenile Services
Probations Department

Marin County Juvenile Hall
4 Jeannette Prandi Way
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6620
Email: Kevin Lynch
Probation website