About Restorative Peer Court

 

Combining High Support with High Accountability

The mission of Restorative Peer Court is to help juvenile offenders restore their relationships with the community through alternative methods of adjudicating minor juvenile offenses, including programs that teach responsibility and positive decision-making.  Central to this process is the opportunity for youth to learn how their actions have affected other people, so that they gain relationship-based motivations for making better choices in the future.

The Center for Dialogue & Resolution’s Restorative Peer Court is based on the philosophy that a youthful law violator can learn from mistakes made and take responsibility for making things right again.  In this way, the sanctions determined by a peer jury are not intended as punishments but rather as reparations (restorative guidelines) that are good for both the youth and the community.  This process also provides a way for offenders to keep their records clean. Along with this framework for accountability, the program also focuses on youth development. Peer Court is designed to interrupt patterns of criminal behavior by promoting leadership skills, motivating self-improvement, and developing a healthy attitude toward laws and boundaries within the community.

How Does The Restorative Peer Court Work?

Respondent participation in this program is voluntary and requires that the offender take ownership for his or her crime. Teen court sessions are not designed for disputed situations. The offenders range from 12 to 18 years of age. Respondents must have parental or guardian consent and participation. Cases are referred by juvenile justice caseworkers, but can also be referred by police, municipal courts and, when appropriate, by principals.

In Peer Court, the Elder introduces the respondent to teenage panelists who are informed of the charge against the respondent.  Two students interview the respondent in front of the jury to learn what happened and who was affected by the offense.  After hearing the case, the jury considers the appropriate sanctions for the offense. The decision is reviewed by the judge and read to the respondent.  The respondent has 60 days to complete the sanctions, which always include a set number of subsequent jury duties.  Once these sanctions are complete, the Peer Court Coordinator returns the closed case to the referring agency with completion data.

Typical sanctions, beyond jury duties, include community service work, apology letters, essays, restitution, workshops (related to substance use, family communications, anger, etc.), college tours, and job skill-building opportunities.  Ideally, respondents choose to stay on as volunteers.



 




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