About Teen Court
What is Teen Court?
Teen Court is a peer sentencing court for juvenile offenders charged with misdemeanors or minor crimes. It is an alternative to the traditional juvenile justice system that empowers youth and communities to take an active role in addressing the early stages of youth delinquency. Teen Court provides communities with an opportunity to ensure immediate consequences to youthful offenders through a peer operated sentencing hearing that constructively allows the offender to take responsibility, be held accountable, and make restitution for violating the law. Teen Court also allows young people to participate in the decision making process for dealing with juvenile delinquency, while gaining hands-on knowledge of the juvenile and criminal justice systems as they serve as attorneys, clerks, bailiffs, and jurors.
Who can participate?
Our Teen Court volunteers come from the 8th - 12th grades in schools in Jefferson County. In the ever-changing world that we live in, it is essential that young adults get involved in our judicial system. In the past we have had adult volunteers from the Junior League of Birmingham to work with our Teen Court members.
What types of cases are heard in Teen Court?
Teen offenders who have committed a misdemeanor or minor offenses may be referred to Teen Court. The most common types of cases heard in Teen Court are shoplifting, disorderly conduct, minor in possession of alcohol or drugs, and affray.
How does Teen Court work?
Teen Court is a REAL sentencing court for youthful offenders. The offender is represented and prosecuted by teen attorneys and goes before a jury of peers who decide how the defendant will be held accountable for his or her actions. The jury is presented with evidence relevant to sentencing, deliberates and renders a binding sentence for the offender. Sentencing may include community service, papers, jury duty, finding employment and curfews. The jury cannot sentence any youth to a detention facility or jail.
What Are the Goals of Teen Court?
The primary goal of Teen Court is to intervene in early criminal behaviors to reduce incidents and prevent the escalation of such behaviors. Teen Court teaches both teen volunteers and the offenders about the laws that were broken, the consequences of the offense, and how due process is observed through court procedure.
What are the roles for adult volunteers?
Adult volunteers are a critical element of this program. Adult volunteers interact with teen volunteers and defendants directly impacting their lives. Judges (attorneys) preside over Teen Court hearing sessions. Session Coordinators contact all volunteers scheduled to participate to confirm their participation and register teens the night of the hearings. Case Managers meet with the defendant and family immediately after sentencing and contact the client weekly to check on their progress. Attorney Coaches (attorneys) help teen attorneys prepare cases.
What are the roles for teen volunteers?
Teens participate by serving as defense attorneys, prosecuting attorneys, clerks, bailiffs, and jurors. Everyone is rotated through each position; however additional training is required for teen attorneys.