Over 8,000 at-risk teens in the last twenty-two years have walked through the doors of the Municipal Courthouse on their way to Teen Court. Only 7% of them return with a second offense. What makes Teen Court work? Restorative Justice for Teens by Teens is more than a slogan—it’s what we do. Over 200 teen volunteers work with their at-risk peers every year, hearing cases and determining appropriate ways to repair harm.
Sentences are individually tailored to each case, and may include apologies, community service, special projects or one or more of Teen Court’s unique classes. Those classes may include Community Impact Panels, where shoplifters meet store managers, police officers and loss prevention specialists who explain how shoplifting impacts the community and retail employees. Or Straight Talk, where a former prisoner talks about the power of all the little choices made every day to determine life’s direction. A police officer volunteers his time to our Alcohol/Drug Awareness program (ADAPT), an interactive discussion with teens charged with alcohol or drug offenses about the effects of prolonged abuse on their futures. Another officer runs the M*Power mentoring program for young men in need of positive male role models. An important part of each sentence is jury duty, which gives the defendant the opportunity to help determine another teen’s sentence, again reinforcing the principles of Restorative Justice: acknowledging the harm caused, accepting responsibility and repairing the harm to the victim and the community.
Teen Court’s volunteers harness the power of peer pressure in a positive way. In fact, the impact of the program is so strong that about 10% of our defendants become volunteers themselves after completing the program.
Volunteers are the heart and soul of Teen Court, and new volunteers are always needed. Whether you are a student, an adult, a lawyer or a judge, we have a place for you!