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Teen Court plays a vital role in youth programs

POSTED November 8, 2011 2:21 p.m.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in a series of articles about this region’s juvenile service programs.)

Juvenile Services Director Laurie White recently presented an overview report for the Barton County Commission, dealing with issues involving the 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services as it operates in its five-county area, consisting of Barton, Stafford, Ellsworth, Rice and Russell Counties.
In it, in part, White reported:
Teen Court is considered an intervention program. 
Teen courts — also called “youth courts” and “peer courts” — present an alternative approach to juvenile justice in which a jury of their peers sentence juvenile offenders. 
Teen courts constitute one avenue for employing concepts — such as positive peer influence, accountability, competency development, and youth involvement — to offer communities a prevention and early intervention program. 
Teen court programs serve a dual function. In addition to providing a mechanism for holding youthful offenders accountable and educating youth on the legal system, teen courts also provide youth in the community with an avenue for developing, enhancing, and practicing life skills. 
Specifically, teen courts, help youth realize they will be held accountable for their behavior; educate youth on the impact their actions have on themselves and others (i.e., victims and the community); build competency in youth by providing instruction in how the legal system functions and how to communicate and resolve problems with peers more effectively; and provide a meaningful forum for youth to practice and enhance newly developed competencies. 
Another important aspect of Teen Court is the involvement of the community (e.g., businesses, schools, youth, civic and social organizations). 
There is ample opportunity for active involvement from the various sectors of the community. 
Teen courts usually require defendants to perform community service hours as part of their sentence.
Many local nonprofit agencies have a chance to work directly with youth in meaningful community service. 

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