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Model Programs Guide Literature Review: Teen/Youth Court

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2010
4 pages
Based on a literature review, this paper discusses the general features, types, and theoretical foundation of teen/youth courts, followed by a review of evaluations of their effectiveness in reducing participants' recidivism.
Teen courts were created to divert young, first-time offenders from formal juvenile court proceedings to a more informal process based on restorative justice principles that hold youth accountable for the harms caused by their offenses while preventing future delinquency. Generally, teen courts are distinguished by the following four models: an adult judge, a youth judge, a youth tribunal, or a peer jury. The most popular model is the adult judge. This model uses youth volunteers in the roles of defense attorney, prosecuting attorney, and jurors, but an adult volunteer is the judge. All of the models have the primary function of determining the appropriate disposition for the youth defendant, who is diverted from formal juvenile court processing on the condition that he/she admit to having committed the charged offense. Available dispositions are designed to address the needs of the victim or community caused by the offense while promoting positive offender development, so as to prevent future delinquency. Although there were approximately 1,150 teen/youth courts operating in 49 States and the District of Columbia in 2005, relatively few evaluations have examined their effects on the youths processed. The most comprehensive evaluation (Butts, Buck, and Coggeshall, 2002) focused on teen courts in four sites in four States. This evaluation determined that participants in two sites were significantly less likely than youth formally processed to be referred to the juvenile justice system for a new offense within 6 months of their disposition. For the other two sites, this finding was insignificant. 13 references