This article presents Teen Court as a specialized diversion intervention that offers an alternative to traditional court processing for juvenile offenders.
Juvenile delinquency has been on the decline for a number of years, yet, juvenile courts continue to assess more than 1 million cases per year. Involvement with the juvenile justice system has been linked to a number of risk factors and consequences that may impact positive youth development; however, evidence-based correctional programs that divert juvenile offenders away from formal processing are limited. Teen Court is a specialized diversion intervention that offers an alternative to traditional court processing for juvenile offenders. Despite the rapid expansion of Teen Courts, there is little comprehensive and systematic evidence available to justify this expansion. This meta-analytic study examines the effects of Teen Court on the recidivism of juvenile offenders. The literature search resulted in the selection of 14 studies, which contributed 18 unique effect sizes with a total sample of 2125 treatment group and 979 comparison group youth. The findings suggest that Teen Court is no more effective at reducing recidivism than (a) formal processing or (b) other diversion programs. Implications of formal and informal court processing for low-risk, first-time young offenders are discussed. The authors draw on the Risk-Need-Responsivity model to provide recommendations for policies and practices. (Published Abstract Provided)