Pioneer youth court program in Mount Vernon designed to teach teens about legal system

The Mount Vernon Police Department is launching its first-ever youth court program in September.

News 12 Staff

Aug 11, 2021, 9:25 PM

Updated 1,076 days ago

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The Mount Vernon Police Department is launching its first-ever youth court program in September.
Twenty-five teenagers are participating in the program.
"We are diverting kids, youth from a bad route to a better one,” says John Aden Wilson, of Mount Vernon.
Teens will hear cases of youths caught committing crimes and decide sanctions, including treatment, counseling and community service.
"We are giving them a second chance. We don't want to put them in the system and ruin their lives for a simple mistake,” says Aden Wilson.
The 25 teenagers are currently in the middle of a five-week training program with members of the Westchester County Attorney’s Office and police.
"Many of our youth are interested in being lawyers or something in the social justice space," says Deputy Police Commissioner Jennifer Lackard.
Lackard tells News 12 the peer diversion program is part of the department's effort to empower teens and divert youth from the criminal justice system.
"For the first time, the Mount Vernon Police Department is looking at being the change agent for that," says Lackard.
This comes as police see an uptick in juvenile arrests.
Some of the program participants have had interactions with police themselves, but the goal is to change the narrative between police and the city’s youth.
“We are going to change that. We are going to make the difference and I think this is the beginning of it,” says Aden Wilson.
News 12 is told youth court will meet once a month at Mount Vernon’s court complex.
The first hearing is expected to be held at the end of September.


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