Teen Court is Making a Difference!
Teen Court is a Diversion Program, designed to keep first-time Juvenile offenders out of the mainstream or formal Court system. Teen Court is a program in which juvenile offenders must admit their guilt in order to qualify, as the Teen Court session is actually a Disposition/Sentencing hearing. Defense attorneys and prosecuting attorneys are represented by teenaged Teen Court Members as are the members of the jury. The Sheriff’s Department Explorers are the Bailiffs; local attorneys volunteer as Judge and as Mentors for the teenaged defense and prosecution attorneys. The teenaged defendants are given sanctions by the jury and must complete the sanctions successfully. One sanction given to the defendants is to attend Teen Court for anywhere between two and five sessions (based on jury recommendations), and act as jury members for new defendants. Once the defendants complete their sanctions, the State Attorney’s office is notified and their case is closed.
Sanctions imposed by Teen Court Juries include:
- Community Service
- Workbooks on Juvenile Law, Consequences of Crime, Bullying, Conflict Resolution
- Workshops to include Juvenile Crime Prevention (A therapist works with the defendants on the importance of personal goals and methods to avoid re-arrest) and a Jail Workshop (in which a Sheriff’s Department official and current adult detainee discuss the realities of jail life).
- Ten Year Life Plan
- Meeting with colleges or vocational school programs
- Essays on the impact of crime on society.
Since December, 2014, we have had seven defendants join Teen Court as permanent members following the completion of their sanctions. We have had two other members join following recommendations by their schools. Permanent members of Teen Court must maintain good grades and must volunteer at least one session per month. Permanent members are awarded Community Service hours for their efforts which are used towards the completion of the hours required by their high schools.
Since December, 2014, Teen Court has enjoyed a 95% success rate with only 5% of all juveniles having to be referred back to the State Attorney’s office for failure to complete the required sanctions.
Teen Court works in partnership with the State Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, Private Attorneys, The Department of Juvenile Justice and the Schools. Referrals to Diversion Programs are made by the State Attorney’s Office. The State Attorney’s Office is notified of the successes of the Members and on the rare occasion that a defendant does not complete the sanctions, the case is referred back for prosecution.
Please come observe Teen Court! Volunteer to be a mentor or a Judge! Teen Court is held on Thursday Evenings from 5:30 to 7:30 (approximate ending time) in Courtroom 1A of the Lee County Justice Center.
Fort Myers, FL 33901