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East Palo Alto Youth Court’s mission is to provide a restorative justice-based diversion program through which young people who have committed minor offenses avoid incarceration, make amends for the harm done, learn alternatives to violence, and constructively contribute to their community through positive peer influence.
As a restorative justice based diversion program, East Palo Alto Youth Court provides an opportunity for minors who have been charged with a low level misdemeanor to avoid incarceration and make amends with their community through community service. Young people are referred to East Palo Alto Youth Court by the East Palo Alto Police Department. They admit the facts of the offense and agree to be sentenced by a jury of their peers. All sentences include community service, future service on Youth Court juries, and counseling. Youth who successfully complete their sentence will have the offense removed from their record and will be better equipped to make positive decisions in the future. East Palo Alto Youth Court nurtures the talents of young people by training them to serve as advocates, clerks, bailiffs and jurors. Our youth advocates, clerks, bailiffs, and jurors serve as positive role models for the youth offenders. This positive peer influence encourages good decision-making by our youth offenders and shows them an example of the community leader they can become. East Palo Alto Youth Court also serves a preventive function to youths by offering training, homework assistance, and tutoring to our youth steering committee. Steering committee members attend two sessions per week where they learn about the principles of restorative justice and are exposed to a wide variety of educational opportunities, including college advising and legal education by Stanford Law School Street Law. Stanford Law School Street Law increases youths’ understanding and appreciation of the legal system and empowers them to work productively within it. Each week, Street Law covers a different legal topic, engaging in age-appropriate activity and discussion rich learning. Street Law offers at risk youth an opportunity to build a rapport with law students, giving both groups a chance to change preconceptions they may hold about the other. East Palo Alto Youth Court also conducts jury training twice a month, which creates an opportunity for cases to be heard before a jury of the respondent’s peers. This training teaches our youth volunteers about our legal system, the principles of restorative justice, and the impact of making poor decisions.
- Toni Stone
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