Teen Courts Encouraging As Juvenile Court Alternative


The 13-year-old defendant, before a jury of his peers, hears the verdict: guilty of battery. The teenage jury foreman reads the punishment: “We sentence the defendant to a daily curfew, anger counseling, and 50 hours of community service, Your Honor. Also, he is not to have any associations with gangs, will write a letter of apology to his parents and the victim, will submit to regular drug testing, and will be put on academic probation. We also will put him into regular auto shop and art classes.”

Teen peer court is in session at Dorsey High School in South Los Angeles, reports the Christian Science Monitor, and it is a real trial. The defendant is accused of a real crime. Student jurors mete out a real sentence. Judge David Wesley is from Los Angeles Superior Court. Are teen courts–there are 1,000 nationwide–any better than traditional juvenile courts at cutting the rate at which kids re-offend? Results of studies are encouraging. Some 89 percent of young people who were sanctioned in teen court the previous year completed their sentences, said a 2005 study of the American Youth Policy Forum.

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