Youth Court offers an alternative for addressing minor offenses while still keeping students accountable for their actions. Typical cases are for fighting, marijuana possession, and graffiti. It is not possible to be sentenced to any time in custody through Youth Court.
A Fresno County Superior Court judge holds hearings on campus. Because teens understand teens best, the jurors in these hearings are fellow students. These jurors work with the judge to impose sentences that help the offender understand the impact of the offense on his or her family, school, and community. Sentences are often more creative than in the traditional courtroom and can include making apologies to the victims or families, writing essays, and doing community service. Offenders must serve as a juror at least once as a part of their sentence. Student offenders must complete sentences in a timely matter or they face more serious formal consequences. Many find the experience so positive that they become ongoing YC jurors themselves.
Many organizations and people work together to make Youth Court happen. These include parents and educators on individual high school campuses and school districts. The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, Probation Department, and Superior Court are also important partners in this effort to help students address their mistakes.
Fresno Youth Court was started in 1994 by the Fresno Superior Court, the District Attorney’s Office and local school districts.
Meet the Team
Many agencies work behind the scenes to make Youth Court work. Staff from these agencies attend monthly Youth Court Advisory Committee Meetings, co-chaired by Hon. Kimberly Nystrom-Geist and Terri Pieretti, EdD.
Starting this year, youth from multiple school districts have formed a Youth Advisory Council that meets alongside the adult Advisory Council.