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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 have 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 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 2014, youth
volunteers served a total of 275 volunteer hours with Teen Court. Adult volunteers served over 200 hours.
(Youth Volunteer Packet)
(Adult Volunteer Application)
Participants in the program are given 3 months to complete their sentence, with the responsibility falling to the juvenile.
In 2014, 75 juveniles participated in Teen Court through 25 court nights throughout the year. Out of these 75 juveniles, 53 (71%) successfully completed the program requirements and had their cases closed at the Juvenile Office.
Of these completing successfully, only 7 returned to Teen Court with a new charge. In addition, the juveniles completed over 515 community services hours for Greene County.
What makes Teen Court effective ?
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: 1-4 jury sessions at Teen Court, 3-12 Community Service hours, and 75-150 Community Action Points (which are earned by doing positive activities in the community, school, and/or home). Each defendant is also required to attend a Family Communication Workshop with a parent/guardian, and one gender specific event in either GEMs or Spartans programming.
The remainder of the sentence is decided by the jury. Some ideas that are regularly used include: apology letters to victims/parents, interviews with community members on specific topics, drug and alcohol counseling, random drug testing, and essays on various topics. The juries are encouraged to be creative. Several new ideas come out in every jury session.