Each Youth Aid Panel is made up of community volunteers who are extensively trained by the District Attorney's Office. Thirty-one panels operate in neighborhoods throughout the city.
The program is open to first-time juvenile offenders charged with
misdemeanors or felonies that would otherwise be heard by a Judge in
Juvenile Court. The offending juvenile must first admit involvement in the
incident at hand, and then is required to enter into a contract with the Youth Aid Panel. The contract could require assignments consisting of a long-term community service project, written essays or reports, counseling, drug testing, and restitution. 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 (contracts typically run on average of three months.) If the juvenile fulfills all terms of the contract, the juvenile's record will be expunged. If the juvenile fails to fulfill the terms of the contract, the juvenile returns to Juvenile Court to be heard in front of a Judge. If the juvenile is found guilty at this stage, he or she will have a criminal record.
There are two key elements of the Youth Aid Panel program: First to give
first-time offenders a chance to avoid a criminal record. Second to make
offenders understand the seriousness of their actions and its impact on
victims and the entire neighborhood.
The Youth Aid Panel program now handles a significant number of the nearly 10,000 juvenile cases brought each year into an already overburdened Juvenile Court system. Eight out of ten juveniles who enter the program successfully fulfill their contracts. The overwhelming majority never return to the criminal justice system. In 2006, over 1,000 juveniles entered into contracts, performing approximately 6,000 hours of community service and many offenders properly paid restitution for damages caused by their crime.
None of this would be possible without the people who volunteer their time. Youth Aid Panel volunteers have saved countless young people from lives of crime while contributing to the safety and well-being of their own communities. Last year, panelists volunteered nearly 14,000 hours to the program.
Additional information regarding this program is available in the Youth Aid Panel Brochure and the February 2012 Newsletter.
If you are interested in volunteering, please call the District Attorney's Office at (215) 686-7600 or (215) 686-6305 and leave your name, address including zip code, and telephone number. Or if you would prefer, an application form to join a Youth Aid Panel is provided below. While Youth Aid Panel volunteers must be residents of the City of Philadelphia, neighboring counties also have Youth Aid Panel Programs."