The great debate about Youth Court has been in front of me again, so I sent the following email to my board. Hoping they will pass it on. If you want to see the study I attached to the email, It’s posted in an earlier blog, Here.
The question of Teen Court/Youth Court has come up recently.
I have attached a recent study – citing the Youth Court lack of researched evidence in regards to comparison groups and the results of one study that did compare – traditional court outcomes were better.
In my opinion the model is not helpful – duplicating the retributive system/formal court system. When you focus on court “process” you miss the things teens need most – empathy development. When people are genuine, speaking from the heart – then repairing harm can happen. When youth are “imitating” adult roles, those being processed in this manner – revert to responding to those roles. As we know teens rebel to authority. A defensiveness to not have to face “punishment” weighs heavier on the young mind. When a safe respectful space is created, in a Circle or Conference process, youth can share exactly what they did, and hear (without fear) what harm they caused. The focus in on the process in teen court. With Restorative Justice – the focus is on the outcome – to repair harm.
One teacher shared with me recently – the backlash and conflict that occured between students, over the treatment one youth demonstrated to another in a teen court process. That wouldn’t happen in RJ, because everyone is real, and consensus is used to develop outcomes.
I had someone else tell me how how the youth judge each other harsher in teen court- – well when did harsh judgements ever help anyone? If we are looking at sending first offenders to a process, one that is more rehabilitative than retributive should be the choice.
Juvenile matters can be directly referred to SCVRJP – via, schools, police, municipal and circuit court. If you have any further questions about our services, please contact me.
I hope we can move away from the punitive mindset and to one embracing ‘protective factors’!