"An Act relating to funding for youth courts; and relating to separately accounting for fines imposed on and collected from defendants. "
"Failure to intervene and hold first time offenders accountable for their illegal acts results in more frequent and serious juvenile crimes in the future."
- Rep. Samuels
HB 155 would create a separate accounting mechanism for fines collected by the Alaska Court system in criminal judgments and would authorize the legislature to appropriate up to 25% of those collected fines either directly to local youth courts or to the United Youth Courts of Alaska for distribution to local youth courts.
Currently youth courts operate in fourteen communities throughout Alaska: Anchorage, Delta Junction, Fairbanks, Homer, Juneau, Kake, Kenai, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Kotzebue, Mat-Su, Nome, Sitka and Wrangell. The Anchorage Youth Court, established in 1989, is the oldest of the programs. In the first two quarters of the current fiscal year, there have been 471 youth offenders referred to these programs, and 8,833 hours of community service and $7,502.00 in restitution ordered.
Since 1989, 4,049 cases have been referred to the Anchorage Youth Court alone. These youth offenders have completed a total of 85,576 community work service hours and paid $68,300.00 in restitution to victims. These programs, while unique in their own ways, are working. A 2002 Urban Institute study found that only 6% of offenders going through the Anchorage Youth Court re-offend -- by far the best percentage of any court in the study.
First time offenders not held accountable for their illegal acts results in more frequent and serious juvenile crimes in the future. Youth courts provide an effective avenue to intervene early with young offenders and set them on the right track to deter them from becoming adult offenders.
HB 155 will provide a way for the legislature to annually allocate funds to support this effective, worthwhile, and cost efficient program.