Teen Court is an informal diversion program that the Greene County Juvenile Office provides for low-risk
juvenile offenders. This means that Teen Court is used for these juveniles to help them learn from their
mistakes, take responsibility for what they've done, and repair any harm caused without taking them through
the formal court system.
In Teen Court, juveniles between the ages of 12 and 16 who have committed a misdemeanor offense are given the opportunity to go before a jury of their peers and accept a constructive sentence determined by that jury rather than have that sentence determined by a Deputy Juvenile Officer or the Juvenile Court.
Teen Court juries do not decide innocence or guilt. Their job is to decide on an appropriate sentence for each defendant. (Click here to find out more about Teen Court sentencing requirements.)
Everyone in Teen Court is a juvenile except the judge. Greene County judges and attorneys preside as judge for the Court. The jury members, attorneys, bailiff, and clerk are all juvenile volunteers or participants in the program. The program is also supported by adult volunteers from the community. In 2011, youth volunteers served a total of 421 volunteer hours with Teen Court. Adult volunteers served over 320 hours. (Click here to find out more about volunteering at Teen Court.)
Participants in the program are given 3 months to complete their sentence, with the responsibility falling to the juvenile.
In 2011, 85 juveniles came through Teen Court through 28 court nights throughout the year. Of these 85 juveniles, 64 (75%) successfully completed the program requirements and had their cases closed at the Juvenile Office.
Of these, only 18 juveniles have committed new offenses, making the success rate 79%. In addition, the juveniles completed over 500 community service hours for Greene County.
What makes Teen Court effective ?
- Teens are being judged by their own peers (positive peer pressure).
- Teens are brought back in to the justice system in the role of jury member. This gives juveniles a new perspective on crime, the justice system, and its role in our community.
- Teen Court sentences include positive learning experiences, whether through jury duty, educational workshops, CAPS, or service in the community. The sentences help restore the juveniles, not just punish them.
- Teen Court gives juveniles the opportunity to help others.
- Teen Court gives juveniles the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions.
- Teen Court makes juveniles more aware of their community and their responsibility as citizens to abide by the law and to consider others.
Juvenile defendants are given a variety of sentencing options. Some are standard (but the teen jury decides on
the quantity), and others are creative and specific to each juvenile defendant.
The standard requirements for each participant include: 2-6 jury sessions at Teen Court, 3-12 Community Service Hours, and 40-160 Community Action Points (which are earned by doing positive activities in the community). Each defendant is also required to attend a Family Communication Workshop with a parent.
The rest of the sentence is up to the jury. Some ideas that are regularly used include: apology letters to victims or parents, interviews with community members on specific topics, drug and alcohol classes, random drug testing, and essays on various topics. The juries are encouraged to be creative, and several new ideas come out in every jury session.