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Southold may establish youth court for non-violent offenders

Denis Noncarrow

Southold Town is exploring the idea of establishing a youth court to offer non-violent offenders under age 16 an alternate pathway.

A youth court would give these offenders a second chance without a criminal record, Southold Town community relations specialist and Youth Bureau member Lynn Nyilas said Tuesday at a Town Board work session.

“All of our surrounding towns have youth courts,” Ms. Nyilas said. “We do not, and we feel it’s important to establish one.”

Ms. Nyilas and government liaison officer Denis Noncarrow have met with Justice Court director Leanne Reilly about creating a court similar to ones in Riverhead and Babylon towns.

They are researching questions of funding, who would run such a court and what role the police department and schools would play.

There are different youth court models, Ms. Nyilas said. Some are presided over by an actual judge, while others have students serve as judge and jury, so determining Southold’s model might depend on student interest and involvement.

After offenders admit guilt, they would be required to perform community service that would in some way channel their actions in a positive way. For example, a teen who is caught spray-painting graffiti, could paint a mural somewhere in the town to show them there is different way to go about it, Ms. Nyilas.

“It’s made clear to them that you could have been arrested, that this is an alternate second chance for you,” she said.

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Photo: Denis Noncarrow addressing the Town Board on Tuesday. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)