What Is Teen Court?
“Teen Court” is a general term describing alternative early intervention courts that involve young people in various roles, participating in the trial of a juvenile offender. It is a juvenile diversion and prevention program that links students, schools, teachers, parents, juvenile offenders, local police, civic organizations, volunteer attorneys, the Los Angeles Probation Department, and the Los Angeles Superior Court in a collaborative effort to reduce recidivism and encourage juvenile offenders to accept responsibility for their actions.
There are many different models for Teen Court. In some Teen Courts, young people fulfill the role of prosecutor of defense lawyer. In other Teen Courts, the young offenders are referred for sentencing only – not for the decision of guilt or innocence. The Los Angeles Teen Court is an early intervention program that provides an opportunity for selected juvenile offenders to be questioned, judged and sentenced by a jury of their peers. There is no lawyer role playing.
What Is The Teen Court Philosophy?
Teen Court is based on the philosophy that both the students who volunteer to participate as jurors, clerks, and bailiffs, and the juvenile offender benefit from participation. The premise is that a juvenile offender will not continue delinquent behavior after participating in a judicial process in which a jury of their peers determines that he or she violated the law and recommends an appropriate consequence. Each Teen Court case teaches the juvenile offender and the student volunteers: 1) The rules of the law that apply to the particular case; 2) The consequences of the offense; and 3) How due process is observed by court procedure. In addition, the participants – both offender and volunteer – learn about justice, power, equality, property rights, and liberty. Justice is demonstrated when the jury exercises it’s power of decision to either hold the alleged offender responsible for his actions or to exonerate him or her of responsibility by finding him or her not guilty. The property rights of members of society are addressed in cases involving vandalism and theft. Liberty is addressed when the desire of the individual offender is weighed against the rights of others. The court provides equal justice according to established rules and procedures.
What Does Teen Court Offer Juvenile Offenders?
The Teen Court program offers a convicted juvenile offender the incentive of having no record of a criminal conviction if the sentence imposed is completed within a six month period. If the juvenile offender fails to comply with the conditions of informal probation for the entire six month period, the offender is transferred back into the traditional juvenile justice system for adjudication. This informal probation, early intervention program is authorized by Welfare and Institutions Code Sections 236 and 654.
Where Is Teen Court?
Teen Courts in Los Angeles are presently held at several different locations. Some Teen Courts are held in local courts, such as Division 3 of the Newhall Superior Court. Most Teen Courts, however, are held at a local high school in either a classroom or a courtroom on campus. Wilson High School and Dorsey High School presently use courtrooms on campus. Carson High School uses a classroom. Pasadena Teen Court uses a local law school campus. The most recent addition to the teen court program is El Rancho High School Teen Court which uses the City Of Pico Rivera Council Chambers.