Young people accused of a crime might be eligible for Connecticut’s innovative Youthful Offender Program, sometimes called “YO.” The program is part of a much larger effort in Connecticut to make the state’s justice system more effective.
One aim is to limit the contact young people have with the criminal justice system. Jail time and huge fines tend to lead to more of the same, while different approaches more often yield better results, according to research findings.
A chance for shorter or deferred sentences, smaller fines
For someone eligible for the Youthful Offender Program (sometimes called “YO”), the court can choose from a wide variety of sentences.
Thanks to this discretion, a judge has more options in responding when offered useful information and sound reasoning. The court might order fines and detention, trade one for another or forgo them entirely.
YO also limits what the court can do in several ways. For example, a sentence can be no longer than it would be for a person charged in adult court and, in any case, cannot be longer than four years. Fines cannot be larger than $1,000.
A closed courtroom and the chance for a clean record
For many people, the greatest benefit of YO over the long term is that a closed courtroom hears the cases with its records closed to the public.
It may surprise some people that U.S. courtrooms are mostly open to the public, including reporters and any curious citizens. The record of what happens and what the court decides are also ordinarily public records. This includes even divorce court, for example, as well as juvenile court.
Connecticut’s YO program closes the court to the public. Once the young person reaches the age of 21 without adding a felony to their record, the state wipes (expunges) the conviction from the record, even in its own files.