According to a press release the idea is to create a “youth-focused, youth-driven peer court that operates year round” to work with first-time offenders who have admitted to their “mistake”.
“Members of this court do not determine guilt,” the release reported. “But provide first time offender with immediate and appropriate consequences to make them accountable for their actions.”
Youth Volunteer Corps Coordinator Cindy Rose said that the new Iron County Youth Court program would have strict guidelines that students must follow when doling out consequences. She said students who volunteer receive training and certification to act as judges, bailiffs, recorders and clerks in actual criminal cases, earning them valuable field experience towards future career goals.
“So the panel will be fully trained to hear juvenile cases of truancy, fighting, curfew violations, harassment, trespassing,” she said. “Referrals will come from Iron County Juvenile Probation, all four Cedar schools and Parowan are all on board.
“At first I think all of the referrals will come from juvenile probation, but some may come directly from the principals, I don’t know, we will have to see as we get going,” she added.
Qualified applicants are expected to serve at least one full year working with ICYC, and to maintain a responsible and professional demeanor throughout their volunteer experience the release reported. Information brought before the court will be sensitive at times, and discretion is an essential character component to any volunteer interested in participating.
Rose said she anticipates that court will take place once a week and she said there would be monthly meetings amongst volunteers to discuss progress and answer questions.
“Possibly more if they would like that,” she said.
5th District Juvenile Court Chief Probation Officer Joyce Pace said that the program’s success in Washington County leads her to believe it will be an asset in the Iron County community as well.
“I think it will be a real benefit,” she said. “I don’t think the state would have invested the support and the backing that they have if they didn’t see the program as a real benefit.”
Pace said traditional court systems have very little involvement with a case once it has been referred to Youth Court. They receive regular updates from Youth Court about the minor’s progress and compliance so that juvenile probation can follow up appropriately, but she said the issues were usually resolved with little conflict.
“These would be very minor offenses,” Pace said. “Something like a marijuana offense would have to go in front of a judge, but there are all sorts of curfew charges, or status offenses and infractions that would qualify.”
Cedar High School Assistant Principal Scott Sharp said he is excited to see the opportunity arise in the Iron County community to get young people actively involved in the criminal justice system.
Sharp said that before he transferred to Iron County to work at the high school he had a chance to work with Youth Court where he worked in the Granite School District in Salt Lake City, though that was eight years ago.
He said that based on his experience a referral to Youth Court for a young person who may otherwise have to face the traditional judicial system could mean a fresh start in their lives.
The guidelines may be strict Sharp said, but that eliminates any subjectivity on the part of the volunteers who run the Youth Court. He said that Youth Court is a bit more expedient in handling cases, because there are few types of cases heard.
“The biggest benefit is being able to have justice and consequences served in a timely manner,” he said. “As we all know the wheels of justice turn very slowly, and sometimes it would take months to be able to meet with a judge and then a probation officer, so with a program like this that can happen a lot more quickly.”
Students interested in participating in Iron County Youth Court can access more information by contacting Cindy Rose at (435) 867-8384. Applications are available attached to this story.