City of Douglas forms teen court
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Plans are underway for Douglas and Coffee County to form a teen court to help deter teens with minor offenses from committing more damaging offenses and have a second chance to better themselves while participating in a Teen Court program. Douglas officials have met with the other Teen Court representatives from around the state and have formed Douglas’ Teen Court in a similar structure based on programs that have been successful. Volunteers are also being sought to help fill some of the duties related to the Teen Court process and assistance with the mentoring program for defendants. Applications must be submitted by June 1, 2018.
Douglas-Coffee County’s Teen Court will be a juvenile diversion program for first time offenders who have committed misdemeanor offenses and who recognize the error of their ways and desire a second chance. Juveniles who admit guilt before the juvenile court judge are eligible for the program. Those who are accepted and successfully complete the 90 day program, will not be an adjudicated delinquent. The goal of Teen Court is to intervene and reduce the incidences and escalations of law breaking behaviors.
The teen court process begins when a police officer comes into contact with a juvenile who has committed a misdemeanor offense. The police officer then files the Juvenile Complaint with the Department of Juvenile Justice. The Department of Juvenile Justice and the Teen Court Coordinator review cases and recommend the first time misdemeanor offenses committed by juveniles to the Juvenile Judge. If the Juvenile Judge will determines the juvenile is eligible and the juvenile has admitted guilt, the juvenile will be order to the Teen Court Program. By entering juvenile court, the juvenile is admitting guilt and accepting the court’s decision as final and binding. The Teen Court Coordinator will then set a court date and location for the teen to appear with his/her parent for trial. The only adults participating in the court is the Juvenile Judge. At all times, the volunteers must adhere to confidentiality requirements as to the identity of the defendant and his/her case.
A portion of the jury should consist of past defendants who are serving their required duty to Teen Court. Every defendant is required to participate in the Teen Court program.
Teen Court will have fines/punishment sentences for each defendant. Those sentences include each defendant to serve anywhere from one to four jury sessions, attend one Teen Court Social, participate in community service hours ranging from 5-50 hours. Other possible sanctions include writing essays that relate to the crime, writing a letter of apology to the victim, school, or parents, attending tutoring sessions on a needed basis, attending mentoring programs and viewing educational videos on Peer Pressure, Wrong Choices, etc. All sentences must be completed within 90 days participation in the Teen Court Program.