By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Greenpoint program that helps troubled young people lost its lease and was threatened with closure when Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-Greenpoint-Williamsburg) stepped in on its behalf and secured a new space within the same building. The Greenpoint Youth Court will still be housed in the Polish Slavic Center at 176 Java St., according to Lentol, who said the program’s directors are signing a long-term lease for the space.
Sponsored by the non-profit Center for Court Innovation, the Greenpoint Youth Court is a program for young people aged 10 to 18 who are referred to the program by local schools, police officers, probation officers and family court attorneys for offenses such as vandalism, disorderly conduct, assault, and truancy. The young people appear before a judge and jury of their peers – other neighborhood teens – who determine fair and appropriate responses.
“The work they do for the community is priceless,” Lentol said. “They provide young children with alternatives to the justice system, which has been known to often steer kids in the wrong direction. Finding innovative ways to dealing with them while they develop is essential, as children have exponentially high chances for recidivism. The work the Greenpoint Youth Court does is so critical to leading children on the right path and I am happy that we were able to find them a new space right here in the neighborhood,” he said.
The program might have had to leave the neighborhood if a new space wasn’t found, he said.
“I was happy to help the Greenpoint Youth Court find a location that was both affordable and kept them in the neighborhood,” Lentol said. “It just so happened that we were able to keep them in the same building. I applaud the Polish Slavic Center for their commitment to the community,” he said.
The Greenpoint Youth Court trains teenagers to serve as jurors, judges and advocates, and how to handle real-life cases involving their peers. The goal is to use peer pressure to help young people who have committed minor offenses make restitution and receive the help they need to avoid any more involvement with the criminal justice system, according to the program’s website.
All potential youth court members are required to complete a leadership training program, a two-month training course in which they learn about the justice system and how court operates. The course of study also includes the development of critical thinking skills and public speaking.