Teen Court in session.
What is Teen Court?
The Teen Court Program is a partnership between CIS and the Brunswick County District Attorney’s office, made possible through financial support provided by the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and Brunswick County Schools. Teen Court is an alternative system of justice that offers first-time juvenile offenders ages 12-17 an opportunity to admit responsibility for their offenses and receive a constructive sentence from their peers. Teen Court also provides a “hands on” educational experience for student volunteers as attorneys, jurors, bailiffs and clerks in real cases involving first-time juvenile offenders in an effort to help them better understand our system of justice.
Teen Court does not determine guilt or innocence; rather it recommends a constructive sentence for the juvenile defendant that includes restitution, community service, and counseling.
A juvenile referred to Teen Court appears before a jury of peers and is defended and prosecuted by peers. Evidence indicates that not only do young people stay out of trouble following a Teen Court appearance, but also the program saves thousands of dollars in community expense and allows the juvenile courts to concentrate more time and energy on critical juvenile offenders.
How Does It Work?
- The Teen Court process begins when the coordinator receives a referral from the Juvenile Services Intake Counselor.
- The coordinator decides if the case is appropriate for Teen Court. If so, the coordinator will contact the juvenile and his/her parents or guardians. The juvenile is then given the opportunity to voluntarily admit responsibility for the offense and participate in the Teen 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 charges will be pursued on the offense if the juvenile successfully completes all Teen Court requirements.
- Rules and regulations for the program are discussed and a Teen Court appearance date is set. The juvenile is assured that all Teen 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.
Teen Court Success Stories
Learn about the impact Teen Court has on students and listen to what our adult volunteers have to say about the program.
Tabitha (student volunteer)
The Teen Court Program works with student volunteers and first time offenders. The student I’d like to highlight now is one of our volunteers. The first night Tabitha came to Teen Court as a volunteer she was dressed all in black right down to her fingernails. She came searching for a place where she could fit in and make a difference. That first night she decided that Teen Court was where she wanted spend her time staying late enough that the Bailiff practically escorted her from the building. Tabitha became a defense attorney representing first-time youth offenders in need of a second chance with the law and with life. Immediately she connected with the offenders, relating to them at their point of need and assisting them in their move forward. Unknowingly to her, she became a role model for many teens in need of an example to follow. During that first year, Tabitha changed by throwing off her “goth” look and focusing her attention on others in need. She has impressed elected officials with her speaking abilities, brought focus to the needs of our youth in our community and touched the hearts of her fellow teens with her compassion. Simply, she is a leader by example and by deed.
Four years later, Tabitha is ready for college and was awarded a scholarship from the Southport-Oak Island Kiwanis Club for her community service through Teen Court. She will represent Brunswick County well as she moves to the next phase of her life.
Tommy (student volunteer)
“Teen court has been a life altering experience I have been able to practice my public speaking skills and work with so many wonderful people in our community. Teen court serves a great purpose in Brunswick County and all across the country by giving teens the opportunity of a second chance and a better life.”
David (student volunteer)
“I’d like to say that my teen court experience has been amazing. It has taught me more about the judicial system and the situations it faces every day. It has taught me more about our government and what could happen if you break the law. You should never get yourself into a situation that may cause you to lose time in your life. Make good decisions in life as making the wrong one could ruin your plans, dreams and goals.”
John Kelso (adult volunteer)
When I first heard about Teen Court and then decided to participate I was somewhat skeptical about how effective and legitimate a program it really was. That doubt disappeared when I helped monitor the jury deliberations in the very first case that I observed. After more than ten minutes of discussing how many hours of community service the defendant should be recommended to the judge it was obvious to me that the student jurors took their responsibilities quite seriously.
In the seven years since that first court session I have been attending Teen Court on a monthly basis as an advisor to both the defense attorneys and the prosecuting attorneys. To say that I have gotten hooked on working with the students in Teen Court would definitely be an understatement. There is no benefit to me professionally (I’m retired) or financially (I do this “pro bono”) but there is a tremendous benefit to me personally. To see the students grow, mature and gain confidence as they participate in Teen Court on a regular basis is well worth the time I spend working with them. From preparing and delivering opening and closing statement to conducting direct and cross examination and to thinking quickly during the court proceedings, I see the students develop skills that will positively affect their future regardless of what career path they choose. In addition, the opportunity to interact with the students after the conclusion of each court session has been the start of some friendships that do not end once the student has graduated from high school. I feel good when I know that I have helped one of the Teen Court students even if it is only in a very small way.
In retirement I was looking for some community activity that would challenge my mind and touch my heart. Teen Court has done that for me.
Become a Teen Court Volunteer!
Teen Court relies on student and adult volunteers to provide an alternative justice system which encourages youth to take responsibility for their actions and correct their mistakes.
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.
Youth and adult volunteers are the very foundation upon which our Teen Court operates on a daily basis. They provide the needed community support to help address the problem of at-risk and delinquent youth in a positive and constructive way.
Teen Court is comprised of people from throughout the county:
- The District Attorney’s Office, Brunswick County Schools Resource Officers and Juvenile Services work together on referrals for Teen Court providing a second chance for our youth.
- The Southport-Oak Island Kiwanis Club provides adult volunteers for every session of court to observe the jury deliberations or mentor the student volunteers.
- Student Volunteers from the county high schools provide the peer leadership for Teen Court.
- The Juvenile Crime Prevention Council gives support and additional funding to make Teen Court possible.
A true and heartfelt “Thank you!” to all the volunteers who work hard and give of themselves to Brunswick County youth.
For More Information
Teen Court Parenting Program
Need help communicating with your teen, direction with discipline or just some extra insight into today’s teen issues? At the Teen Court Parenting Program, you can meet other parents to share common concerns and learn how to improve your relationships. It’s free and available to all parents!
Teen Court Peer Circles
Teen Court moves on with the introduction of monthly peer circles for Juvenile Defendants. These sessions are also open to all Teen Court Student Volunteers. Peer Circles involves teaching life skills to teenagers. The three areas of focus are decision making and conflict resolution, substance abuse prevention and anger management. While the parents participate in the Parenting Support Group, the youth are learning life skills that can make a difference in their lives. The teens looked at different ways to not only resolve conflict but avoid it from the beginning. Peer Circles will be held monthly on the 3rd Tuesdays from 6:00 to 8:00 at the Brunswick County Courthouse.
Make a Donation to the CIS Teen Court program