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Anchorage Youth Court

Ages 7-18

Rating: Level 3


Anchorage Youth Court (AYC) was established in 1989 as a nonprofit organization and operates today in partnership with the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Juvenile Justice. The youth court accepts 400 to 500 referrals a year from the juvenile court. The AYC generally handles first-time, minor property offenses and other misdemeanors, although it may accept some youths with prior arrests for minor offenses. Cases excluded from eligibility include serious drug and alcohol offenses as well as cases involving youths with gang affiliations, severe psychological and emotional issues, or prior violent offenses.

For “no contest” hearings, AYC uses a tribunal youth court model in which there are no jurors. Rather, the case is argued by youths volunteering as attorneys to youths volunteering as judges. Youths may volunteer for AYC beginning in seventh grade. Many begin their service as clerks and bailiffs and work their way up the ranks to attorneys and judges. All volunteers involved in the Anchorage Youth Bar Association (YBA) must complete an 8-week training course and pass a youth bar exam to gain admittance. Only YBA members may serve as attorneys or judges in the YBA. Finally, unlike most teen courts, defendants in the AYC have the option of pleading “not guilty.” When a youth makes a “not guilty” plea, the youth court spends considerable time and resources to schedule and staff an adjudication hearing. The youth attorneys can spend several days interviewing witnesses and investigating the facts of the case. The arresting officer and other witnesses may be called to testify.


AYC was part of the Evaluation of Teen Courts (ETC) project. The ETC project used a quasi-experimental design to evaluate the impact of four diverse teen courts in four different States. The ETC project identified teen courts suitable for evaluation based on several criteria, including 1) willingness to participate in an evaluation, 2) caseload size, 3) length of operation, 4) courtroom model, and 5) geographical location. The evaluation tracked youth outcomes in four treatment groups (teen courts) and four nonequivalent (nonrandomized) comparison groups. The composition of the comparison groups varied from site to site. The AYC comparison group was constructed from electronic records of first-time offenders referred to the Alaska Division of Juvenile Justice in 1995 but who would have qualified for AYC in 2001. The program and comparison youths were matched on demographic characteristics and offense. The principal data sources included 1) self-administered questionnaires completed by youth and their parents, 2) teen court program files and administrative records, and 3) police and court records.


The findings of the ETC project suggest that teen courts are a promising alternative for the juvenile justice system. In AYC, the results indicate that youths referred to teen court were significantly less likely to be re-referred to the juvenile justice system for a new offense within 6 months of their initial offense. Only 6 percent of AYC youths recidivated, compared with 23 percent of control-group youth.


Butts, Jeffrey A., and Janeen Buck. 2000. Teen Courts: A Focus on Research. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Butts Jeffrey A, Janeen Buck, and Mark Coggeshall. 2002. The Impact of Teen Court on Young Offenders. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.


Sharon Leon
Anchorage Youth Court
P.O. Box 102735
Anchorage, AK 99510
Phone: (907) 274-5986
Fax: (907) 272-0491
Web site:

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