Far Rock Youth Court Funding Falls Short
It's a way of holding young people accountable to their peers for what they have done. At least that's what the Far Rockaway Youth Court was for the past year, while it was in session. However, as the latest victim of federal and local budget cuts, the court will hear its last case this September.
Alfred Siegel, the deputy director of the Center for Court Innovation, which runs the program, told The Wave that if the appropriate funding isn't found, the youth court will be out of session permanently by the end of September.
"Regrettably it's all about money," said Siegel, who added that the program was first funded by the U.S. Attorney's office and then sustained by the city council.
Siegel continued by saying, "The money evaporated. There was no federal renewal, and the city council made cuts across the board."
The city council cut the Center for Court Innovation's funding by 33 percent this year. Included in that cut was the money for the local youth court.
The lease for the Far Rockaway Youth Court office, located at 10-11 Namoake Street in Far Rockaway, will expire at the end of September, and staff there will be reassigned to other positions.
"I know there has been a lot of local support from the community, the police and the schools," added Siegel. "I am ham struck where the money is going to come from."
The youth court, operated under the umbrella of Project Safe Neighborhoods, is a place where young people - ages 10 to 18 - who have admitted to low-level crimes go before their peers - ages 14 to 18 - who have undergone eight weeks of training and workshops, to act as jurors, lawyers and judges and hand out sanctions.
The Far Rockaway Youth Court held its first member induction in May 2007, and the most recent graduation of members took place this June.
According to Siegel there are two other youth courts in Harlem and Red Hook, which were not affected by the city council cuts. These sites, he said, are parts of larger programs that have been in operation longer and have more funding options.
While the announcement was made now to prepare its staff and the youth that the Far Rockaway Youth Court is in danger of closing, Siegel said they would continue to look for funding to keep it open.
"If we're successful [in finding funding], we'll be delighted to keep it [open]," concluded Siegel.