A Youth Aid Panel is a diversionary program for first time juvenile offenders accused of certain non-violent crimes and is comprised of community volunteers. Youth Aid Panels have been in existence in Cumberland County since 2003. With the enactment of Balanced & Restorative Justice (B.A.R.J.) within the Juvenile Justice system, Youth Aid Panels, present an excellent opportunity for communities to become involved and for offenders to accept responsibility for their actions, learn from their mistakes and to have their records expunged.
An initial intake interview with a Juvenile Probation Officer for crimes graded as a misdemeanor or above will determine if the juvenile is eligible for the Youth Aid Panel. The interview process gathers information and completes an assessment that evaluates the juvenile’s crime, home behavior and school conduct. The youth must acknowledge responsibility for the offense to participate in the panel process. Following completion of the interview process, the Juvenile Probation Department shares the assessment information with the Youth Aid Panel Volunteers and assists in monitoring the juvenile’s progress with all Youth Aid Panel requirements.
If the juvenile is determined eligible, the juvenile will then come before a panel of trained volunteers from the community. Based on the actions of the youth, the panel, the offender and his or her parents work together to build a contract that calls for accountability to both the victim and the community, also repairs the damage done to the victim and meets the treatment needs of the juvenile.
Resolutions could include research on the crime committed with an essay explaining the impact, letter of apology to the victim and/or the offender’s parents, community service, restitution, an alcohol awareness class, a retail theft class, a drug and alcohol evaluation or participation in appropriate counseling services. Panelists are encouraged to be creative and tailor the resolution to the offense and the youth.