Ten Ketchikan students who completed a nine-week Ketchikan Youth Court program this fall were inducted as court members during a ceremony on Monday night.
Ketchikan Youth Court is one of several juvenile restoriative justice programs in action around the state, and the nonprofit organization works to educate youth aged 11 to 18 about civics and government, allowing them to act as judges and attorneys in specific types of real cases involving first-time local juvenile offenders.
"That nine weeks we go over a lot of like basics, civil government stuff," KYC Director Austin Otos told the Daily News during a Tuesday morning interview. "And then we go a little more into the weeds of court procedures and how to operate and use courts in our sentencing hearings. And then at the end of that they take a bar exam, about 100 questions. And once they pass that they become a youth court members. So it's like a mini bar exam and they are admitted into our bar, if you will. ... And the ceremony is just to celebrate that."
He noted, "It's quite a commitment, especially on top of school and what other programs that you're doing. ... So it's a big deal."
And so 10 Ketchikan youth were inducted into the program as KYC members during an hour-long ceremony that took place at The Plaza mall on Monday evening. The students' parents or guardians were in attendance, as was Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly Member Judith McQuerry. Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens was present to read the oath of office to the new members.
The new KYC members who were inducted into the program on Monday included Jocelyn Cannon, Mica Ronquillo, Liam Woodward, Jonathon Pattison, Chase Harris, Olivia Trujillo, Nickey Richey, Claire Mettler, Avaka Arntzen and Jackson Harris.
The newly minted KYC members now can participate in sentencing hearings and other procedures held in the youth courtroom. Members also are tasked with attending monthly meetings and participating in cases and community events.
"So they are now judges and attorneys," Otos said. "So they'll be shadowed by the older kids and the more experienced kids that are in youth court right now. And they'll just teach them how to operate in the courtroom. So they'll be doing actual sentencing hearings, participating in some of the community events that we do, just basically running the court and running the program. ...
I try to let the kids pretty much run the entire program by themselves, and the courtroom."
Specific cases can be referred to KYC through a few avenues. For example, a state judge of magistrate can refer the case of a youth cited for a charge such as minor consuming alchol to KYC.
Sometimes, youth can be directly referred to KYC by a police officer, not involving the court system, Otos explained. Cases involving misdemeanor charges, such as those involving theft or assault, are sometimes passed to KYC through juvenile probation.
Sentences approved though the youth court can include alcohol classes for offenses related to underage drinking, community work service or essay writing. Upon the completion of the sentence, the youth will not have the offense on his or her record.
"And it's just a less punitive approach to a criminal justice system," Otos noted.