Jury Duty allows youth to give back to the community by serving 7 times as a juror. Using the restorative justice concepts, twice a month on a Saturday, youth (sentenced respondents and volunteers) participate in jury duty. Hearings are held every other week at DC Superior Courthouse. Youth Court utilizes 6 to 8 courtrooms that are donated for our use. During each hearing, the jury hears the charge, the facts of the cases, and the respondent’s version of what happened. The respondent’s parent or guardian is given an opportunity to speak about the youth’s behavior and recommend sanctions to the jurors.
The jury has an opportunity to dialogue with and ask questions of the respondent and the respondent’s parent/guardian. Under these seemingly simple acts of talking with and questioning, the jury is sublimely:
- Exercising his/her analytical skills, which builds cognitive thinking (better decision-making),
- Practicing his/her communications skills, which builds confidence, and
- Collaborating with others, which build team work and a community spirit.
- Learning to take responsibility for their actions and held accountable for their actions
- Learning positive citizenship attitudes, and learning about civic engagement.
During the deliberation process, there are Youth Court staff and volunteers, generally from UDC, Howard University, or Georgetown law schools, to help with legal concepts and to ask poignant questions about the case and its impact on the community to spur a lively debate among the jurors. The Youth Court staff also provides mentoring and coaching to the jurors throughout their involvement in the program.
Jury training gives youth the concepts and tools necessary to make good decisions regarding hearing cases. The concept of restorative justice allows youth to listen to cases and apply those concepts that include you have harmed yourself, your family and the community. Jury training allows youth the opportunity to learn about laws and law enforcement, the consequences of breaking the law, and how to understand and analyze the elements of a case. Jury training is a dialogue that helps youth understand the consequences of their actions, offers jurors an opportunity to express and understand their thoughts, feelings and ideas about the law, and understand the concept of restorative justice and giving back to the community. Training is provided by volunteer law students from Howard University School of Law.