Philosophy

Teen Court Program in Teenage Rehabilitation

Teen courts have attempted to resolve this problem in recent years. Originally established as a means for teens to try teens, it has evolved into a compassionate system that believes teens should be given a second chance. Based on a philosophy of restorative justice and rehabilitation, it offers the teen an opportunity to reflect on their attitude and alter their behavior. Teen courts that are run by teens hand down sentences that are adjudicated by teens. The open format of the court and the presence of the teenage peers helps the first time offender accept personal responsibility for their behavior and make an honest effort to correct the wrongs that they have inflicted on the victim and the community.The origins of the teen court concept have their roots in the constitutional principle that states all defendants are entitled to a jury of their peers. Credit for the implementation of this ideal is given to Mansfield Ohio when in 1947 a group of kids began to hold trials for neighborhood bicycle thieves (Caplan, 2005). The idea has grown and undergone substantial refinement in recent years. The current format that is used in teen court originated in Texas in 1983 and today there are over 1000 teen courts operating in several states (Williamson and Chalk, 1993). In 2005, it was reported that the teen courts would handle over 100,000 cases in a year (Caplan, 2005). This results in significant savings in both money and scarce court time.The teen court program is predicated on the belief that many teen offenders, and especially first time offenders, have the potential to be rehabilitated. The courts are structured with a teen jury that questions the defendant and recommends a sentence. In many cases, the teen volunteers also serve as the prosecuting and defense attorneys.

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