Ketchikan Youth Court inducted nine new members last night Thursday during a ceremony at Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly chambers. Wearing his judicial robe, Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens administered the oath.
“So if you could all please stand and raise your right hand and repeat after me. I will support the constitution of the United States. The constitution of the state of Alaska and the rules of the Ketchikan Youth Court .”
Since 1999, the Ketchikan Youth Court has been holding court for youth by youth. KYC is one of 12 youth courts in Alaska. The program aims to help youth offenders resolve their legal problems. Defendants who are referred to the program, and complete their sentences, are able to avoid a conviction on their permanent record.
Judge Stephens also teaches the class and administers the exam for new youth court members. He says the program is as much for the members as it is for the defendants.
“Cause these kids handle real cases with kids charged with real crimes and you know they get to be the lawyers, they get to be the prosecutors, they get to be the judges. The judges get to make the ultimate decision as far as what’s going to happen to that young person in that particular case.”
Youth Court uses restorative justice, which means offenders receive a sentence that aims to teach empathy for victims through community service and reparations.
Executive Director Glenn Brown stressed empathy to the new members who now are in a position to judge their peers. He reminded them that some of the kids coming through the program don’t have much support at home.