Harm is deeply personal and victim autonomy is critical.
CYFA’s Youth Peer Court (YPC) gives young people who cause harm an alternative to take actionable accountability through peer-driven dispositional opportunities that are based in restorative practice.
YPC provides a powerful opportunity for youth to take responsibility for harm. It equally empowers people who have been harmed. YPC honors victim autonomy – the person harmed is not required to participate in YPC.
YPC empowers young people through a service-learning opportunity that amplifies accountability, cultural competence, empathy, and equity. It provides participants an opportunity to transform the current juvenile legal system from retributive to restorative.
In preparation for service in the role of YPC counsel or fact-finder, YPC Ambassadors receive instruction on the legal system and its processes, are trained in the PEER curriculum, and are mentored in the art of advocacy.
YPC does not operate within the formal juvenile court system; rather, it serves as a voluntary, community-based process that diverts youth from the legal system.
Available to young people ages 10 to 18 who have engaged in harmful behavior that would amount to a misdemeanor or nonviolent felony.
Provides for meaningful accountability, is trauma-focused, and provides for successful community reintegration.
YPC operates like a traditional court; however, the advocacy (prosecutor and defense attorney) and fact-finding (judge/jury) roles are held by young people trained in CYFA’s comprehensive YPC curriculum and mentored by seasoned legal professionals. Participation is entirely voluntary. Admission of harm is required.
Any person can refer a young person to YPC for behavior resulting in harm – a peer, parent, community member, law enforcement officer, teacher, or school official can refer a young person to YPC for an action that would amount to a misdemeanor or nonviolent felony. Participation in YPC is
YPC offers the ability to resolve matters affecting young people outside of the legal system – true (pre-charge) diversion. YPC also can be used as a diversion option, pre-adjudication option, dispositional tool, and other option to prevent further entrenchment into the juvenile legal system.
CYFA is committed to honoring self-determination of all parties involved in YPC. Restorative practice requires the person who committed the harm to acknowledge wrongdoing. If the person alleged to have engaged in wrongdoing is not willing to voluntarily admit committing the harmful act, YPC cannot be used.
Each YPC referral is evaluated prior to acceptance. Once a matter is accepted by CYFA, a participant can expect the following:
YPC Is System Transformation
YPC directly aligns with diversity, equity, and inclusion goals, police practices initiatives, and criminal legal system reform efforts. CYFA’s community engagement, intake, evaluation, education/training, and restorative practices are centered in anti-racism. YPC was created to dismantle structural practices that result in systemic oppression and provide equitable opportunities to go beyond punishment to the heart of personal accountability, victim empowerment, and increased community safety: