POUGHKEEPSIE – A proposal by Legislator Craig Brendli in July to establish a Dutchess County Youth Court was tabled by the Republican majority of the legislature until Tuesday night when a modified draft was passed by the entire 25-member board.
The original plan called for the creation of a youth court as a diversion to court for first-time youth offenders where they are represented, tried, and sentenced by their trained peers. Similar programs exist in Putnam and Ulster counties.
The resolution passed on Tuesday night calls for the study to be conducted to determine the feasibility of a youth court or youth restorative justice program. Town of Wappinger lawmaker Joey Cavaccini said that the original proposal was too narrow, and the study is a better idea. “I want to see what types of programs are available for youth before committing to establishing a youth court.”
Chairman Gregg Pulver agreed with Cavaccini. “The original plan was not palatable to several of our members because it was very narrow in scope. The study will give us a chance to learn of existing programs and their success rates in order to determine if a new program is needed.”
Brendli continued to lobby for the youth court option, telling his colleagues the legislation “is critical to begin the research and development of programs that give young offenders a second chance and the opportunity to turn around their lives.” He said it is “important to ensure those who make mistakes, can learn from them through restorative justice programs, and then start anew with a clean slate.”
Brendli was joined by his Democratic colleague, Giancarlo Llaverias, who said, “This youth restorative justice proposal gives youth a second chance at life. Many young kids around the county do not have access to the right influences to help them make sound decisions. Many of our youth have to become adults at a young age. This proposal gives us the chance for intervention and has the potential to put our youth on the right path instead of putting them in prison.”
The study request will go to County Executive Marc Molinaro asking that the review be completed and returned to the lawmakers within 10 weeks of it being started.