Youth Aid Panel
Balanced & Restorative Justice for Juveniles
In 1996, The Pennsylvania Juvenile Act was amended to include the concept of Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ). This approach requires attention to the following three groups: the victim, the offender, and the community.
It focuses on three areas: accountability, competency development, and community protection. All three groups are considered “clients” of the juvenile justice system. Although the victim and community were previously considered when Luzerne County dealt with youthful offenders, the primary focus was always on the offender. Balanced and Restorative Justice has redefined the focus of Juvenile Courts to be more pro-active in the community.
In the aftermath of the issues involving the Juvenile Justice System in Luzerne County, it has been our objective to implement meaningful and effective changes in the process in order to achieve community awareness of the issues and to make changes to impart a renewed sense of trust and confidence in the system. Throughout my tenure as District Attorney, I have engaged in the process of identifying programs and policies that can restore that confidence. Significant time and effort have been invested in reviewing the Youth Aid Panel process as it currently exists in Pennsylvania.
Role of Youth Aid Panels
Youth Aid Panels are an opportunity for community members to reestablish their role in the lives of their youth, as well as those in their community who have been victimized. They participate in a problem-solving process and offer a plan to address the juvenile’s wrongdoing. They provide guidance to that juvenile in an attempt to curtail any future delinquent acting out. They also provide the victim with a community forum to assist with reparation. Youth Aid Panels take justice out of the courtroom and place it in the community, giving all those involved, the offender, the victim, and the community, more input in the outcome of the case.
It is time to look toward the community to help not only to prevent crime, but also to aid in the rehabilitation of those youth that have ventured into the realm of delinquent behavior. Time spent with a young person now can go a long way in ensuring that he or she does not become an adult offender.
If you have any questions on the Program or would like to learn more about how to get involved to help give back to the community, please contact Youth Aid Panel Coordinator Kristen Zearfoss at 570-820-6335.