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Youth Program Offers Circle Sentencing With Barter Incentive

The Allied Community Youth Court, now in its second year, is administered by Youth Services of Southern Wisconsin, a nonprofit agency specializing in programs for youths and their families.

Unique among the Youth Services courts, the Allied Community program uses circle sentencing, a restorative justice process that involves members of the accused’s community, including adults. All other Youth Services programs are peer courts where teens, under the guidance of an adult, determine sentences.

Youths ages 12 to 16 who live in or offend in the Allied area can be referred to youth court for such ordinance violations as curfew offenses, habitual truancy, tobacco use, trespassing or fighting. They have 909 days to complete their sentences.

“For youth offenders, standing before other teenagers to acknowledge misbehavior cuts down on the BS factor,” said Madison Police Officer Greg Rossetti.  “Kids who go through the youth court seem to stabilize their behavior, and the ones who stay on to train and serve as jurors develop leadership, public speaking, and critical thinking skills.”

The court in Darbo-Worthington is run by the Dan County Timebank Network. Youths who serve as jurors in that court earn “time dollars” that they can use to barter for services—like karate lessons or hair styling—offered by other members of the network. Timebank and Youth Services are working to merge aspects of their youth court programs, including making the time dollars available to all juvenile jurors.

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