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AROUND TOWN: Teen Court steers youthful offenders away from crime

April 30, 2017 Updated: April 30, 2017 at 4:20 am
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photo - Teen Court participant speakers Kamil Oldham and Syncere Hinton, standing, emcee Katie Pelton, seated left, and keynote speaker Staci McCormack.
041317 Photo by Linda Navarro
Teen Court participant speakers Kamil Oldham and Syncere Hinton, standing, emcee Katie Pelton, seated left, and keynote speaker Staci McCormack. 041317 Photo by Linda Navarro 

It is restorative justice in action, "for teens by teens."

In 1994, Colorado Springs Teen Court was founded "to interrupt the cycle of juvenile crime" and the impact has been major, board chair Bill Walsh, CSPD school resource officer, told the almost 500 supporters at the group's annual fundraising luncheon.

More than 8,000 first-time juvenile offenders have completed the program, with just 7 percent reoffending. The dollar figures are $58,000 annually to incarcerate a youth, but, Walsh pointed out, it's $683 to go through Teen Court.

Syncere Hinton's experience with Teen Court changed her life after she was caught shoplifting. Kids often consider shoplifting a victimless crime, the adults had pointed out. A committee of impact managers from stores showed offenders like Syncere first-hand how it impacts everyone, including customers like their own parents who will end up paying more for products.

And it can ruin a teen's life. "Teen Court made me realize I had to focus," she said. Now she's even interested in the FBI as a career.

Kamil Oldham and his friends got caught painting rocks in Palmer Park and he took the blame. Through a panel of his peers and the support of a mentor, he faced up to what he had done, worked through it and expressed himself through photography instead of graffiti. He has even been hired to photograph a wedding, he told luncheon guests.

Last year, the trained Teen Court student volunteers handled 352 first-offender cases. The program has added life skills training and received a grant to deal with marijuana use.

Honored during the luncheon, where attendees wore silly green glasses for "different ways to look at yourself," were mentor attorney Roger Wertheimer; Karin Agee, who received the nonprofit's Founders' Award; and a team from AFES for commitment to working with and supporting the at-risk teens.

More photos: gazette.com/life/around-town

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