INDIANAPOLIS -- Getting teens with a troubled start back on the right path – that’s the goal of Reach for Youth’s unique Teen Court program.
The cases heard in Teen Court are referrals from the traditional Juvenile Justice System, sent to be sentenced by their peers.
The program’s goal is to rehabilitate teens before it’s too late.
The prosecution and jury are all made up of teens who volunteer at the court.
Only first-time, non-violent offenses can be heard in Teen Court. The most common cases are usually drugs and theft.
The sentences, though, are all handed out by teens, and can be anything from saying you’re sorry, to writing a report.
Sekiyia Mosely, 13, volunteers as a Juror for Teen Court. She said she wants to be tough on the offenders, but not too tough.
“It’s not right to be too tough,” said Mosely. “If they shoplift, they don’t have to write a 500-word essay; they could just say sorry.”
But while being sentenced is the main thing, the goal is to remind the teens what would happen to them if they were an adult committing these crimes.
Adam Satchel, 17, said that while he tries not to be too tough when handing out sentences, he also wants to be strict to get the right message across.
“I think it’s just a wake-up call to the punishment they get, I think it will divert them from committing future crimes,” said Adam
A Teen Court judge said kids that go through their program are less likely to re-offend.
Teen Court is held on a weekly basis and oversees roughly 300 cases each year.