What is Peer Court?
Peer Court is an alternative system of justice, which offers first-time juvenile offenders ages 11-16 an opportunity to admit responsibility for their offenses and receive constructive sentencing from their peers. Offenses include truancy, classroom disruption, simple affray and other appropriate offenses. Peer Court also provides a “hands on” educational experience for student volunteers in an effort to help them better understand our system of justice.
Peer Court does not determine guilt or innocence; rather it recommends a constructive sentence for the juvenile defendant that includes restitution, community service and counseling.
The Peer Court Program is currently offered in all four Brunswick County middle schools: Cedar Grove Middle, Leland Middle, Shallotte Middle, South Brunswick Middle Schools, as well as Waccamaw School.
A juvenile referred to Peer Court appears before a jury of their peers and is defended and prosecuted by peers. Evidence indicates that not only do young people stay out of trouble following their court appearance, but the program also saves thousands of dollars in community expenses and allows the juvenile courts to concentrate more time and energy on critical juvenile offenders.
How Does It Work?
The Peer Court process begins when the coordinator receives a referral from school administration, school resource officer or school social worker. If the coordinator decides the case is appropriate for Peer Court, the coordinator will contact the juvenile and his/her parents or guardian. At this time the juvenile is given the opportunity to voluntarily admit responsibility for the offense and participate in the Peer Court Program.
An interview is scheduled with the coordinator, the juvenile and his/her parents or guardians. The parties must sign an agreement for voluntary participation with the understanding that no criminal/undisciplined charges will be pursued on the offense if the juvenile successfully completes all Peer Court requirements.
At this time, rules and regulations for the program are discussed and a Peer Court appearance date is set. The juvenile is assured that all Peer Court proceedings will be held in strict confidence.
Who Benefits and How?
Juvenile defendants are given a second chance, student volunteers learn about the legal system and careers in the legal field, and the community saves thousands of dollars.
Jackson, South Brunswick Middle School student
“I have been volunteering with Peen Court for about 2 years now. I have served as Juror, performed as Defense and Prosecution Attorney duties. So I know firsthand, just how impactful CIS Programs are to our community and its students. I have learned so many skill sets from my volunteer time with CIS. Some of these include problem solving, effective communication skills, persuasive presentation skills, engaging dialogue with other’s from different backgrounds, learning and asking probing questions from our many adult volunteers and most importantly I learned a lot about myself. As these vitally important skill sets will carry me forward for many years to come.”
Caleb, Shallotte Middle School student
“Peer Court is an amazing experience that allows kids to experience the legal world. Because of what Peer Court has helped me learn, I plan to become a lawyer. Peer Court allowed me to see how lawyers work and do trials. There is a real judge and adult lawyers who volunteer that help the kid lawyers learn. A Peer Court trial is nothing short of amazing.”
Mary Ann Crimi, Shallotte Middle School Peer Court adult volunteer
“I am always so impressed with the degree of professional responsibility students bring to their roles of attorneys, bailiffs, clerks and jury members in Shallotte Middle School’s Peer Court. As a community volunteer, I work with the student juries. Each time I am awed by how seriously students take their obligations and how fair and impartial they are in meting out suitable consequences for classmates’ infractions.”
Become a Peer Court Volunteer!
The youth offender is defended and prosecuted by peers (student volunteers). A jury of peers then imposes constructive sentencing which may include restitution, community service or counseling. Adult volunteers act as mentors and instruct the student volunteers in courtroom etiquette.
Peer Court Middle School Contacts
Whitney Franklin – Cedar Grove Middle School (910) 253-5327 Ext. 2859
Ruth Thompson – Leland Middle School (910) 253-5327 Ext. 1721
Michele Rau – Shallotte Middle School (910) 253-5327 Ext. 1531
Calie Hodgson – South Brunswick Middle School (910) 253-5327 Ext. 1623
Amber Malave – Waccamaw School (910) 253-5327 Ext. 2531
Make a Donation to the CIS Peer Court program