Youth Aid Panel
The Youth Aid Panel is a diversionary program for first time juvenile offenders accused of certain non-violent crimes and is comprised of community volunteers. Youth Aid Panels have been in existence in Cumberland County since 2003 and have expanded to serve the entire Cumberland County jurisdiction over the past fifteen years. Youth Aid Panels, also known as Neighborhood Justice Panels, present an excellent opportunity for communities to become involved and for offenders to accept responsibility for their actions, learn from their mistakes and to have their record expunged.
The juvenile is typically a first-time offender of a non-violent crime. The offense, or crime, must qualify at the discretion of a Magisterial District Judge or the Juvenile Probation Office. An initial interview with a Juvenile Probation Officer for crimes graded as a misdemeanor or above will determine the eligibility of the juvenile. The interview Process gathers information and completes an assessment that evaluates the juvenile’s crime, community behavior, home behavior and school conduct. The juvenile must acknowledge responsibility for the offense to participate in the panel process.
Following completion of the interview process, the Juvenile Probation Department shares the assessment information with the Youth Aid Panel Volunteers and assists in monitoring the juvenile’s progress with all Youth Aid Panel requirements.
If the juvenile is determined eligible, the juvenile will then come before a panel of trained volunteers from the community. Based on the actions of the juvenile, the panel, the offender and his or her parents work together to build a contract that calls for accountability to both the victim and the community, also repairs the damage done to the victim and meets the treatment needs of the juvenile.
Resolutions may include research on the crime committed with an essay explaining the impact, letter of apology to the victim and the offender’s parents, community service, restitution, an alcohol awareness class, a retail theft class, a drug and alcohol evaluation or participation in appropriate counseling services. Panelists are encouraged to be creative and tailor the resolution to the offense and the juvenile.
There are 18 Youth Aid Panels with 60 volunteers serving as panelists in Cumberland County. Currently, the Youth Aid Panel services 31% of all Cumberland County Juvenile Probation clients.
Since 2003, over 3,500 juveniles have successfully completed the Youth Aid Panel. Juveniles have completed 52,668 hours of community service and over $50,680 restitution has been collected for victims. Panelists have contributed over 27,000 hours of their time to the Youth Aid Panel.