Published: April 10, 2013
Teen Court has had an unexpected impact on some youthful first-time misdemeanor offenders.
Referred to a court of their peers instead of municipal court for offenses such as shoplifting, at least 55 of the former defendants completed their sentences and then joined Teen Court as volunteers.
That was one of the interesting tidbits from Teen Court's 19th year that was reported at the nonprofit's annual luncheon March 13 at Cheyenne Mountain Resort.
Via video, Attorney General John Suthers said, 'The vast majority of kids who get in trouble don't need court. You can put a teen through Teen Court and they never reoffend. '
The 215 Teen Court volunteers practice restorative justice, holding teens accountable for their crimes and in some cases sending them to meet with the victims, which include people at convenience stores and big-box stores and even neighbors.
The audience laughed, recalling a classic movie, when staff member Erick Groskopf said Teen Court members on a case turn into '12 Angry Men. '
More than 2,000 first-time offenders have been sent through the Teen Court process.
Luis Tapia and Oneisha Hayes, who are now volunteers, described their Teen Court experiences. One of the worst parts for Luis was having to admit to his mom, face to face, his BB gun offense. 'I was more scared of my mom, ' he said, shaking his head. Today, he's trying to be a role model for his younger siblings.
Oneisha's mother, Monique Garrett, said young people are going to make mistakes, but she and the Teen Court held Oneisha completely accountable. 'My mom made me pay for everything, ' said Oneisha, who is now in college.
The luncheon was an opportunity to present annual awards including those to mentor attorneys Michael Lassota and Lynn Olney and a Founders Award to Linda Lynch. Hostess was energetic Teen Court Executive Director Pat Ruffini.