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Jury of Their Peers: Teen Courts Help Communities Get Smart About Being Tough

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 36 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2009 Pages: 44,46,50
Ronnie Garrett
Date Published
July 2009
6 pages
This article explains the rationale for and the features of youth courts, as well as the key to their success.
Teens typically run the entire youth court hearing. They sit on the jury and act as defense attorneys and prosecutors; key adults preside over the proceedings to guide them. Teens on the jury ask questions of the defendant youth in the course of his/her testimony, and parents of the defendant youth are asked to testify about the youth's character. The jury leaves the hearing room to deliberate on the youth's level of accountability and any appropriate sentence. Youth held accountable for delinquent-status offenses or other problem behaviors may be held accountable by the youth court's requiring them to make restitution to victims, provide community service, and/or abide by personal restrictions. The youth court is intended to provide wayward youth with the sense that they have violated the behavioral norms of their own peers while learning that their problem behaviors have consequences that harm individuals and the community. Further, they learn that they must be responsible for repairing harms done and changing the behavior that caused the harm. The successful youth court brings together a diverse group of people to set common goals. These include professionals in law enforcement, probation, schools, and courts, as well as members of community social. civic, and business groups. All of these groups must be aware of the youth court, be given an opportunity to become involved in its operation, and be allowed to provide input for the program's design and implementation.