Juvenile Conference Committees (JCCs) are six to nine member panels of trained citizen volunteers who hear the cases of minor juvenile offenders. Recommendations, if approved by the judge, become a court order which is monitored by the Juvenile Conference Committee.
The concept of Juvenile Conference Committees dates back to 1948, while the establishment of Juvenile Conference Committees began in New Jersey in the early 1950s. Juvenile Conference Committees are authorized under N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-75 and R. 5:25.
As of December 31, 2011, there are 262 Juvenile Conference Committees operating statewide with 2,124 Juvenile Conference Committee volunteers serving in all twenty-one counties. One state coordinator and twenty-one county staff persons (most perform other functions in addition to serving as JCC coordinator) are involved in the coordination of the program statewide. A uniform training and certification process for JCC members is in place statewide. A two-day course is offered to JCC Coordinators and volunteers which certifies individuals to present uniform Juvenile Conference Committee training to new volunteers.
The Juvenile Conference Committees operate according to the Guide for Juvenile Conference Committees, originally approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey in June 1996, updated in 2003 to reflect Rule amendments, and further updated in July 2007 to incorporate Directives #4-05, “Judiciary Volunteer Services Program Standards,” and #19-06, “Judiciary Volunteers – (1) Code of Conduct; (2) Litigation Reporting Policy.” The Conference of Juvenile Conference Committee Coordinators sets yearly goals including a commitment that all JCC Coordinators will be certified as JCC trainers and that all JCC volunteers must be certified as trained to serve on a JCC. The AOC sponsors a two-day certification training each Spring, with the next one scheduled for April 2013. Many county-based training sessions for volunteers will also be occurring. The AOC conducts a survey annually on minority statistics of JCC volunteers.
During court year 2011, 7183 complaints were diverted to Juvenile Conference Committees. This represents 16.8% of the total juvenile delinquency caseload statewide.
The Administrative Office of the Courts supplies funds for salaries of the Coordinators of the Juvenile Conference Committees. The majority of the JCC Coordinators administer this program as only one of their many family intake related duties. Operating costs at the state level for the JCC program are supplied by the budget allocated to the AOC Family Division.
Juvenile Conference Committees represent a partnership between the Judiciary and the citizenry of New Jersey to provide expanded services to youth at risk. The program provides the opportunity for focused intervention for youth and families within the community of residence. This volunteer program not only saves judge time, it helps build the collaboration between the court and the community that is necessary to respond effectively to juvenile delinquency.