Mayor's 2013 Budget Would Slash Anchorage Youth Court
Court allows judgment by young people's peers
ANCHORAGE - When young people break the law, they could face a courtroom full of their peers.
Last year 255 mostly first-time offenders went through the Anchorage Youth Court.
The court takes on misdemeanor cases such as shoplifting and other theft, as well as marijuana possession.
Besides some key staff, students run the program.
The teens take classes and are trained to act as lawyers, clerks and judges, overseen by professional Alaska lawyers.
It's supposed to help teens realize the consequences for their illegal actions and encourage them to make better decisions in the future.
“Intervention when people are young makes a huge difference… so they don't have a life experience of crime and going down the wrong path,” said Whitney Sutton, Executive Director of Anchorage Youth Court.
Mayor Dan Sullivan’s tough budget proposal for 2013 would cut all city funding for the program: $205,000 -- or 38 percent of its operating budget.
“If the municipality grant is to be cut, I honestly can't say what AYC would look like. It will be greatly diminished or shutdown,” said 17-year-old Bradley Bourdon, Co-President of the AYC.
Supporters of the program say it's one of the keys to preventing young offenders from getting into deeper trouble.
“When someone comes through Anchorage Youth Court they are generally sentenced to community work service hours and [an] essay about the crime and about how the crime has affected them as well as a class if it applies,” said Bourdon.
Anchorage Youth Court workers say the program actually saves the city money by keeping kids out of detention
A 2010 report on Alaska Youth Courts revealed 88 percent of defendants had not re-offended after one year.
The Anchorage Assembly is continuing it's review of the budget and will have the final say on whether the program can continue operating at the level it does now.