Teen Court: Justice for teens, by teens
Contributed by: Erin Feese/YourHub.com on 1/12/2009
Teens in Castle Rock and Parker with a passion for law and justice are doing more than watching Law & Order reruns. Teen Court gives kids between 12 and 17 a chance to actually be in the courtroom and make decisions that affect their peers.
"Teen Court is designed to use positive peer pressure to encourage the offenders to change their behavior," said Sandra Gutierrez, director of the Teen Court programs in both Parker and Castle Rock.
Teen Court is a community-based program for misdemeanor juvenile offenders for crimes such as theft, harassment, trespassing, property damage, minor in possession and possession of marijuana. It gives first-time offenders, who would normally go before a judge, the option to go before a jury of their peers, Gutierrez said.
In making decisions, Teen Court volunteers draw on a variety of training including constitutional law, criminal law, victim impact and diversity, Gutierrez said. In determining a defendant's sanction, teens not only look at the charge, but also what is going on in the young person's life, she said.
"They really are trained to take into consideration all aspects of the case and to be fair and appropriate for each person," she said. "They are not there to punish, but to hold the person accountable."
The sanctions ordered by Teen Court carry the same weight as if ordered by municipal court. If a defendant completes his or her sentences within the allotted amount of time and does not commit another offense for six months after the hearing, the original charge is dismissed.
Teen Court is a restorative justice program, which means it focuses on repairing the harm done to the community, Gutierrez said. Many defendants from Teen Court come back to volunteer for the program.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009