Rochester Teen Court
Rochester Teen Court is a diversion program delivered by The Center for Youth for nonviolent offenders, ages 16-18. Defendants participate voluntarily in this sentencing court after accepting responsibility for their actions in a traditional courtroom. Local judges preside over the proceedings, and teen jurors recommend sentencing. Youth volunteers also serve as attorneys and court personnel.
Youth courts use positive peer pressure to ensure that young people who have committed minor offenses pay back the community and receive the help they need to avoid further involvement in the justice system. Youth courts hear a range of low-level crimes; many handle cases that would otherwise wind up in Family Court or Criminal Court. The Center also assists local jurisdictions in their efforts to establish youth courts.
Participation in youth courts is voluntary and requires young people to take responsibility for their actions. Through the hearing or restorative circle, the respondent has the opportunity to tell their story and answer questions posed by the jury. With a focus on restorative justice, sanctions typically include community service, letters of apology, and skill-building workshops. Successful completion of sanctions typically results in a favorable disposition of the case by the referring agency.
Youth volunteers cultivate their leadership skills and are exposed to a range of education and career opportunities. Young people with previous justice-involvement are strongly encouraged to apply. All youth court members receive 30-40 hours training before serving.
Teen Court’s main objective is to ensure a teen’s first encounter with the criminal justice system is his or her last. The program is designed to:
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