Youth Court at risk of folding

If Saratoga County's Youth Court program can't come up with the $70,000 it takes to run the peer-to-peer alternative sentencing program, it will be forced to drastically reduce its services or cease to exist entirely.

It takes $70,000 to fund the program and pay its two full-time staff members, according to Clinical Director at the Saratoga County Prevention Council Patty Kilgore, who oversees Youth Court. She said that about 75 percent of this money was previously provided by a member item from Senator Joe Bruno's office. This government funding is no longer available so the Youth Court has reached out to the public for help.

We want to sustain this program because it works, it's an extremely successful program and we don't want to change it. We've trimmed the budget as much as we can, we're down to pretty bare bones, said Kilgore. "Youth Court impacts at least 300 youth a year throughout Saratoga County, so it's a broad program and provides incredible peer leadership opportunities, for the officers as well as a viable alternative sentencing program for first time offenders."

Youth Court is a peer-to-peer alternative sentencing program for young people arrested for first-time offenses. After being referred to the peer-run court by a municipal court judge or the probation department, offenders participate in a trial and receive a sentence, consisting of community service and other sanctions, according to information from Ekman. Participating in Youth Court makes offenders much less likely to commit another crime, Kilgore said, and over the past 10 years, Youth Court has saved Saratoga County thousands of dollars by preventing more than a thousand young people from re-entering the criminal justice system.

"Officers have the opportunity to learn a lot about the profession of law. Some come from the BOCES criminal justice program, some go to the Saratoga County schools and many are home schooled," said Kilgore. "Many officers have gone on to law school and really credit the Youth Court with where it all began."

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