The Antelope Valley Community Youth Court (AVCYC), organized and administered by the city of Lancaster, is a proactive prevention and intervention program which aids youth in the Antelope Valley.
The AVCYC provides an alternative response for juvenile offenders, diverting them out of the criminal justice system without any criminal record of the incident, while teaching them the skills that will assist them in making better decisions in the future.
“Youth are the most valuable resource in our community,” said Mayor R. Rex Parris. “This program gives children a second chance by teaching them to become productive citizens, while reducing the drain on our criminal justice system.”
Since its founding in 2010, the Antelope Valley Community Youth Court has handled more than 270 cases. According to records, 87 percent of juvenile offenders who complete the program do not reoffend.
The AVCYC was established to address the needs of Antelope Valley youth who exhibit low-level criminogenic behavior, after a review of juvenile justice processes revealed that the strongest results in reducing youth crime have come from peer youth courts using a restorative justice philosophy. The primary goal of restorative justice is to repair the harm done by the crime; where the offender must acknowledge the harm caused by his or her actions, take responsibility for those actions, make right the wrongs, and address the causes of the behavior. Citizenship skills are learned throughout the entire court process and offenders encounter a number of opportunities for personal growth and development.
The court process begins when a citation is issued to a youth. If the offender is between the ages of 12 and 17, has accepted responsibility for the offense, and is a first-time offender of a non-violent misdemeanor or status offense, the case is referred to the AVCYC. Not all first-time offenders will be selected for the program, and final approval is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Youth Court judges are local judges and attorneys who have volunteered their time for the program. The jury also consists of local volunteers, all 12-17 years of age. The jury ultimately decides the youth’s sentence. Sentencing may include community service, classes, counseling, writing a letter of apology or an essay, and serving on a future AVCYC jury.
For more information about the Antelope Valley Community Youth Court, visit www.cityoflancasterca.org/av-community-youth-court or contact Senior Criminal Justice Analyst James Kobolt at (661) 723-6059.