What is Teen Court?
Columbia County Connects Teen Court is a unique and effective way of dealing with juveniles who have committed a first time misdemeanor offense. Teen Court is available to first time offenders who are cited for minor infractions of the law. Offenders, who are referred to Teen Court, do so on a voluntary basis. Teen Court is for offenders who admit guilt and choose to go before their peers to be sentenced.
What Happens in a Teen Court?
A youth, who has admitted guilt to a crime or an offense, appears for a sentencing hearing before a jury of his/her peers.He or she is called a youth offender.
The Teen Court Peer Jury is composed of volunteer teenagers from middle schools and high schools throughout Columbia County, as well as youth offenders who have been required to serve on a jury as part of their sentence.
During the hearing, the Peer Jury is presented with the case, calls witnesses, decides the consequences, and passes sentence.
The jury may impose a sentence that includes community service, verbal or written apologies, restitution, writing an essay, writing letters of apology, curfews and/or jury duties.The jury, without any adults in the jury room, makes the decision. While adults oversee the hearing, the teens are in charge of the process.The jury cannot sentence any youth to a detention facility or jail.
It is our belief that if peer pressure can be used to exert a negative influence, it can also be used as a positive force. Those who work with youth know just how instrumental peer pressure can be in the decision-making process of youthful minds, even with so-called "good kids".
What better way to impress upon a youthful offender than to be judged by a jury of his/her peers?The message given by a peer jury will be long remembered by those seeking to fit in and be accepted.
What are the Benefits?
There are several benefits for both youth volunteers and youth offenders. Youth volunteers will get experience as a peer juror, work with and help teens from all over Columbia County, and learn about the legal system. Youth volunteers are eligible to apply for the Wisconsin Teen Court Association Scholarship.
Benefits for youth offenders include a decision by a jury of peers, an opportunity to participate positively in the criminal justice system and dismissal of their cases from the regular court system.
Youth offenders must successfully complete all Teen Court requirements within the required period in order for their case to be dismissed.
P.O. Box 564
Portage, WI 53901
Phone: 608-745-5492 (direct)
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