According to literature collected by the National Association of Youth Courts, one of the earliest known Youth Court/Teen Court programs still in operation is the Naperville Youth Jury in Naperville, Illinois, which started in June 1972. Despite some conflicting accounts on the origin of Teen Courts, one thing is certain, awareness of this incredible program grew rapidly in the 1990s. In 1994, there were only 78 Youth Court programs in operation, according to the National Youth Court Database. By 2006, there were more than 1,127 Youth Court programs in operation throughout the United States. Currently, there are approximately 1,255 programs operating nationwide. Of those, 15 are in Colorado.
Teen Court in Castle Rock, Colorado began in 2007 and is a community-based, juvenile intervention/prevention program that offers an alternative to the juvenile justice system. This program only accepts juvenile offenders with first-time, nonviolent, misdemeanor charges. These offenders are seen by youth volunteers who act as peer mentors, attorneys, bailiffs, and jurors. Our trained teens conduct peer panels and trials before they determine the appropriate sanctions for the offender. This process effectively holds juvenile offenders accountable for their actions and promotes long-term behavioral change that leads to enhanced public safety.
The Castle Rock Teen Court is based on the principles of restorative justice, and community service connects our participants to the community and provides many opportunities to become involved. For example, Santa’s Second Chance uses the traffic fines from one month of Teen Court to help fund gifts for the program. Its objectives are to allow offenders to turn a negative situation into a positive by giving back to the community, re-enforcing a caring community spirit and providing children in need with gifts and the message of goodwill during the holidays. Members and participants shop for gifts, wrap gifts and organize the packages for distribution through Police Explorers, the Salvation Army and the Department of Human Services.
For more information, please contact Deborah Fritzler: 303 663-6136 or TCourt@CRgov.com