Alaska’s 15 youth courts, which dispense justice to about 900 young offenders each year, need funds to keep operating. The courts have relied on a mix of federal grants and support from municipalities, corporations and Native organizations, as well as car washes and other fund-raisers, says the Juneau Empire.
Staffed by amateur teenage attorneys and judges, the courts handle first-time youthful offenders who have committed crimes such as underage drinking, vandalism and shoplifting. Punishments usually include restitution and community work service.
The federal grant that provides support is drying up, and youth courts are looking for regular state funding to replace at least part of that.
The loss of the federal grant could close Juneau’s program. A bill pending in the state legislature would allow appropriation of 25 percent of certain criminal fines to youth courts.
The state has given youth courts about $400,000 a year from the federal Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grant, which the Bush Administration has proposed to eliminate.