Teen Court is coming back to Lakewood after a pandemic pause.
In Teen Court, teens who do minor crimes can be tried and sentenced by a jury of their peers.
It’s a diversion program, meaning that upon completion of their sentence, the charge can be dismissed.
“I think the coolest part about teen court is positive peer pressure,” says Lakewood Teen Court Coordinator Caleb Mulvin, who is also a probation officer.
Kids ages 13-17 can play the roles of defense attorneys, prosecutors, the jury, or the judge.
They will research the criminal justice system, learn the laws, get to know the defendants, and hold trials.
Mulvin says the process could help the teen defendants learn the consequences of their actions, and help them make better choices.
“Through participating in teen court, they’re gonna be able to develop skills and develop empathy for the victims,” says Mulvin. “And they’ll be able to write either an essay, or apology letter to their victim, take classes like Discovering Better Choices.”
The goal of the program is restorative justice—or repairing the harm that their crimes did to the community.
“I can tell you anecdotally is that we don’t have our teen court kids coming back through this system,” says Lakewood Chief Probation Officer Jennifer Zubalik. “The majority of them are successful and move on and don’t ever have another contact with criminal justice.”
Lakewood Teen Court will hold its first training on August 29.
If you’re interested, click here to apply.
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