In the Spring of 1996, Volunteers for Youth Justice began Teen Court, a voluntary diversion option for first-time juvenile offenders. Teen Court is a program designed to offer these juveniles the opportunity to be judged by a jury of their peers, accept responsibility for their actions, and make restitution for their offenses. Teen defendants are given sentences designed to provide constructive and educational consequences, increase social skills, develop critical thinking skills, and build competency.
Teen Court Volunteers
- Teen volunteers fill all the roles of the traditional court personnel, including bailiffs, clerk of court, defense and prosecuting attorneys, and jurors.
- An important aspect of the defendant’s sentence is the requirements to serve as a juror for future cases, providing the invaluable role reversal of defending the law.
- Adult volunteers supervise the teen juries, advise teen attorneys , and meet with the defendants and their families to advise them about fulfilling their sentences.
There are many positive outcomes to the Teen Court Program. Teen and adult volunteers alike develop an impressive knowledge of the legal system. However, the greatest significance is the impact made on the lives of youth in crisis. Teen Court has consistently demonstrated a recidivism rate of less than 5% which means 95% of Teen Court defendants who successfully completed their sentences, avoid further court involvement.