The youthful offender sentencing program is not part of the juvenile court system. However, in some states, when a juvenile is convicted of a felony crime in which he or she is being treated as an adult, the court has the authority and discretion to sentence that child as a youthful offender. A youthful offender is usually placed in the custody of the Department of Corrections.
In most states the maximum amount of time the child can remain in custody is four years. In addition to that time, the court has the authority to order the child to serve an additional two years of supervision following release from custody. The maximum period of time under the youthful offender program that a child can be imprisoned or supervised (or both) is usually a total of six years. The court has the discretion to divide these six years into any pattern it believes is both appropriate and in the best interest of the child and society.
A child treated as a youthful offender is handled differently by the prison system. In many cases, it is a helpful way to avoid mandatory prison sentences. Youthful offender sentencing, when appropriate, can be a tool that helps not only the individual charged with the crime, but also society in general, by giving young people a second chance and an opportunity to prove that they are not going to continue a life of crime. For more information on youthful offenders, consult a juvenile defense lawyer.