Mount Vernon expands its youth court to include cannabis offenses
Mount Vernon is expanding its youth court to include cannabis offenses.
According to Mount Vernon officials, students are showing up to school high and its only getting worse.
This isn't a problem unique to Mount Vernon, but what is unique is how they've chosen to tackle the problem .
Youth court is for second-time offenders, and at first glance, might look a lot like regular court.
"We have a jury, we have a judge, we have a bailiff," explained high school senior and Youth Court member, Tamiah Williams .
But there's a respondent, instead of a defendant because you actually must plead "guilty" before the trial even starts.
"The prosecution does what a typical prosecution does, which focuses more on the crime," said Williams.
The defense attorney's role is to paint a full picture of the person and their character, essentially who they are apart from their drug offense.
Instead of a typical sentencing, there are sanctions. That could be anything from mandated community service or even a suspension.
While you are going through your trial you are automatically admitted into the archway outpatient drug rehab program for five therapy sessions, that you must complete.
This isn't a program about punishment, it's restorative. They want you to understand what you're doing and how it's negatively affecting you while you're still young enough to turn it all around.
"It's a time for experimentation,” said Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard. “And we want to make sure they get through this time period educated and making informed decisions, but when they don't always make the best decisions for themselves, we want to make sure we are providing support, guidance and resources."