Coordinator Beverly Hodges
What is Teen Court?
Teen Court is a unique justice program for first time offenders of misdemeanor crimes. It is designed to give youth between the ages of 11 and 18 who have broken the law and admitted their guilt, a second chance.
Teen Court is based on the philosophy that a youthful violator is more profoundly impacted when a peer jury decides his or her punishment. The ideal outcome is that young people take responsibility for their actions, provide restitution to the victim and community, and give both the juvenile offender and community an active role in solving juvenile crime.
There are approximately 1,800 Youth Courts on 5 Continents. The Woodland Park Teen Court was founded in 1994.
How does Teen Court work?
Teen Court is the sentencing forum for young first time offenders who have been referred by the Municipal Court and desire a six month deferred prosecution. The jury, consisting of teens, does not decide innocence or guilt: it assesses sentences. The youthful offender who goes before the teen panel, must plead guilty along with parental or guardian consent. Following teen court sentencing, the offender must complete all elements of his or her sentence successfully prior to dismissal of the original charge with no conviction.
How are the teen juror, bailiffs, and attorneys selected?
School administrators and teachers are asked to nominate teens for participation in Teen Court. Teens may also nominate themselves. Parents/guardians must consent to the teens’ participation. Mandatory training sessions are held each semester for all interested teens. Teens appointed as attorneys are assigned an adult attorney mentor to assist them in trial preparation. Previously sentenced teens are added to the peer jury pool.
What types of sentences are imposed by Teen Court?
Sentences imposed by teen juries must include community service and participation in future Teen Court sessions as jurors. Sentences may also include restitution to the victim, letters of apology, remedial classes (theft, alcohol education, etc.) and essays. Sentencing is intended to be constructive, and to involve the defendant actively in the community as well as in future Teen Court sessions.
What are the benefits of Teen Court?
To the defendant: Interruption of a potential pattern of criminal behavior. Improvement of self-esteem resulting from successful completion of the program. Reinforcement of positive behavior. Accountability. An opportunity for a young person to avoid a criminal record.
To the community: Service to the community benefiting the entire community.Parent-guardian involvement. Reduction of the caseload in the over-burdened criminal court system. Dramatic reduction in the number of repeat offenders.
To the schools: A positive alternative for students who have stepped “off track” for the first time. Judgment of a teen by their “peers” which in many cases has a more powerful impact than adult discipline. Real consequences for delinquent behavior in the school environment.
To the student volunteers: Involvement in redirecting peers. A better understanding of the judicial system by teens through hands-on participation. Reinforcement of good citizenship. Improvement of public speaking and advocacy skills.
Teen Court is held in the Courtroom located in the City Hall Complex. Teen Court can be reached by-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or you can contact her by telephone at (719)687-9262.