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Nassau County Youth Court lets teens make decisions

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Nassau County Youth Court is teaching young people valuable life lessons.  The court is real and the cases are real, but the defendants are young, ages 11 to 17, and their cases are tried by other teenagers.

Teens in the program face minor charges or sometimes felony charges, but the program keeps them out of jail.

The NCYC is the largest of its kind in the Tri-State Area, and the only one in New York run by a district attorney.

"They've already agreed to plead guilty, and so now, this is the sentencing phase," Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said. "We want them to be responsible for their actions but also learn something.”

The alternative program has processed hundreds of cases and the youth defendants have completed more than 15 thousand hours of community service. The defendants also serve on the jury as a part of their sentence.

PIX11 spoke with two young people who have come through Nassau County Youth Court and are now volunteering their time.  James, 15, said “It was nerve wracking and I was scared but it helped me turn my life around.”

The trial process in Nassau County Youth Court could take anywhere from about five minutes to 20 minutes.  All defendants must complete their sentence in youth court or they will have to go back to their original situation in the regular court system.

Fewer than 10 percent of these the teenager who successfully complete Nassau County Youth Court will commit crimes in the future