Teen Courts

326 words | 2 page(s)

Preventing crime is always the goal of law enforcement agencies, especially when it comes to youths. When children are taught early not to commit crimes, they can grow up to be productive members of society. But when they slip up, there are programs out there that are designed to teach them a lesson, without getting the criminal justice system involved.

One court-initiated crime prevention program are teen courts. Teen courts are used for first-time youthful offenders without using formal court procedures (Garrison pg. 11 2001) The teens are judged by their peers and there is no permanent criminal record (Garrison pg. 11 2001). Punishments consist of writing letters of apology, serving on peer juries, community service, restitution plus help is offered with counseling and help with drug and alcohol groups (Garrison pg. 11 2001). Rather than have an adult judge imposing the rule of law on the offender, teen peer pressure is used (Garrison pg. 12 2001).

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Research on a teen court in Nebraska showed that, while offenders felt that the teen court experience was positive, and only 13 percent of participants reoffended, that it didn’t change the teens’ attitudes, beliefs, or respect for authority figures (Garrison pg 12 2001). In a study on an adult model peer court program in Kentucky, prior offending had a significant effect on recidivism (Garrison pg. 13 2001). In Kent County, Delaware, teens were also put on one-year Attorney General probation in addition to their teen court punishments (Garrison pg. 19 2001). Of 45 youths in the program in 1999-2000, 84.4 percent did not violate their probation (Garrison pg. 19 2001).

The conclusion to the studies are that teen courts, while recidivism rates are low, are most effective in having first-time offenders reflect on the wrongfulness of their behavior (Garrison pg. 20 2001). Teenagers are at an impressionable age, and having their peers impose sanctions, may influence them more than an adult authority figure.

  • Garrison, Arthur H., (Summer 2001), “An Evaluation of a Delaware Teen Court”, Juvenile and Family Court Journal, Retrieved from http://cjc.delaware.gov/PDF/garrison2.pdf

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