Youth Court Staff
- Chief Juvenile Probation Officer
- Clint Arneson
- Juvenile Probation Officer
- Sam Mendoza
- Chris Kent
- DeAnna Blocker
- Probation Program Assistant
- Shane Fisher
- Nicole Bailey
About Youth Court
Under the Montana Youth Court Act, the Youth Court Juvenile Probation is a mandated function of state government directed by the District Court Judge.
The 21st Judicial District Youth Court encompasses Ravalli County only, whereas some Judicial Districts support many counties that share the cost of the Juvenile Probation Department. Unlike the Montana Department of Corrections Adult Probation and Parole, the Juvenile Probation Department must deal with youth offenders before they appear before a Judge.
The Youth Court Process
When a youth under the age of 18 commits a crime, he or she is cited into the Youth Court probation office and, except for traffic offenses, all youth are required to appear before a Juvenile Probation Officer with his or her parent(s). The probation officers are officers of the court and act under the direction of the District Court Judge. A youth will admit or deny his or her culpability at the initial interview with a probation officer, resulting in either a diversion, informal probation or a petition will be filed by the County Attorney requiring the youth to appear in front of the Judge.
Juvenile sentences are designed to make the youth accountable for the crime, to protect the community, and to give the youth skills to become a competent, non-offending adult. Youth Court Services or Juvenile Probation, is also designed to keep the Youth Court from becoming over-burdened with relatively minor offenses that can be handled more swiftly by the probation officers.
Accountability can be achieved in a variety of ways. An adult is presumed to be fully aware of his or her actions, whereas a youth may know that what he or she has done is wrong, but does not completely understand how the act committed affects many different areas of the community where he or she resides. Shoplifting, for example, is an act that youth commit most often for the thrill of it or out of boredom.
A common diversion or sentence will be a face-to-face apology with the victim, paying for the item taken, performing community service hours for which the youth must pay a fee and, if the youth is not involved in extra-curricular activities, choosing a hobby or interest that is on-going and provable. This diversion does not require a costly and time-consuming court hearing where the County Attorney, Public Defender, a Court Reporter, Judge and Probation Officer must all appear. Accordingly, the punishment fits the crime and the youth is handled swiftly resulting in everyone benefiting from the youth's mistake.
Community Protection is paramount in the Juvenile Justice System. While minor offenders can be diverted from further criminal activity, serious delinquency requires sanctions that may include detention. Unlike adults, youth either ‘get the message’ after a short incarceration or must be placed in facilities that are designed for rehabilitation.