Philadelphia: The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is seeking adult neighborhood volunteers to serve on Youth Aid Panels. We are looking for special people who are willing to give their time and energy to help steer first-time juvenile offenders away from the criminal justice system and toward productive life choices.
“This is the perfect opportunity to support your community,” says District Attorney Seth Williams. “Just a few hours a month will have a tremendous impact on the City.”
Each Youth Aid Panel is made up of community volunteers who are extensively trained by the District Attorney’s Office. Thirty-one panels operate throughout Philadelphia with at least one in every police district.
The Youth Aid Panel program is open to first-time juvenile offenders charged with misdemeanors or minor felonies who would otherwise appear before a judge in Juvenile Court. The offending juvenile must first admit involvement, and then he/she is required to enter into a contract with the Panel. The contract could require anything from a community service project, written essays and restitution to attending workshops on subjects such as, retail theft, conflict resolution, and auto theft impact. One panel member is assigned to monitor each juvenile’s progress and adherence to the contract until all terms of the contract have been fulfilled. If the juvenile fulfills all terms of the contract the case never goes to court and the record of the arrest is expunged. If the juvenile fails to fulfill the terms of the contract, he/she will have a hearing in Juvenile Court.
There are two key elements of the Youth Aid Panel program: 1. To give first-time offenders a second chance to avoid a record and 2. To hold the offender accountable to teach them the seriousness of their actions as well as the effect their crimes have on their victims and the neighborhood as a whole.
The Youth Aid Panel program now handles a significant number of more than 6,000 juvenile cases brought each year into Philadelphia’s Juvenile Court system. Nine out of ten juveniles who enter the Youth Aid Panel program successfully fulfill the contracts they make, and the overwhelming majority will never again return to the justice system. In 2010, 517 juveniles entered into and completed contracts and performed more than 5,279 hours of community service and paid restitution for damages. Across the city, 185 volunteers donated 5,565 hours of their time.
If you are interested in helping kids by becoming a Youth Aid Panel Volunteer please call 215-686-7600, 215-686-6305, or 215-686-6310 and ask for Youth Aid Panels or leave your name, address, and phone number and someone will contact you immediately.