Youth Courts 101: A How-to Video Primer and Manual

Leonard Witt
July 28, 2011

Greg Berman, director of the Center for Court Innovation
in New York City gives an excellent overview of how youth courts work
in this video interview with Leonard Witt of the They are
completely teen driven with teens as judges, attorneys and juries who
hear actual cases either referred by the police or the courts. Each teen
judge, attorney or juror gets 30-hours of training and has to pass a
“bar exam” to be able to serve.

In the youth courts Berman’s center helps oversee, the kids running
the courts come from a variety of backgrounds, so the offenders are

Greg Berman

g judged by their real peers. In fact, kids who once came before the
court often come back later to serve as judges, attorneys and jurors,
so Berman says it can be “a life changing experience.”

Kids sent to the court have already admitted guilt and are at the
mercy of their peers to design the sanctions that will be administered.

The kids ask great questions, Berman says, and have “great BS
detectors.” They listen to the individual cases and then the jury
delivers a sanction that, according to Berman, tends to emphasize

The outcome might be a letter of apology, public service work or
links to anger management. It turns peer pressure on its head, he says,
making it a positive rather than a negative and that is the nub of the
youth court idea.

Watch the video below for more details. You can download the manual on Recommended Practices for Youth Courts published by the Center for Court Innovation.

Leonard Witt is the executive director of the Center for Sustainable
Journalism at Kennesaw State University, where he holds the Robert D.
Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication and was named an Eminent
Scholar by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia in
2008. He was a journalist for more than 25 years, including being editor
of Sunday Magazine at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, editor of Minnesota Monthly and executive director of the Minnesota Public Radio Civic Journalism Initiative.

This article was originally published by the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.  It is reprinted here with permission.