Restorative justice fans tout program advantagesProponents of juvenile restorative justice programs say youths are less likely to commit offenses after successfully completing a peer court program.
By: Scott Wente, Woodbury Bulletin
Proponents of juvenile restorative justice programs say youths are less likely to commit offenses after successfully completing a peer court program.
East Ridge High School police liaison Jean Hancock, who is coordinating a youth court program at the school, said it will take a few years to judge the new program’s outcomes.
However, she added, there is evidence to suggest it will work.
Some national studies show that there is a 50 percent recidivism rate in the juvenile justice system. Teen courts based in the restorative justice philosophy have posted far lower recidivism rates, between 9 percent and 20 percent, she said.
There are about a half-dozen active youth court programs in Minnesota.
Wright County, west of Minneapolis, has operated a teen court program for about a decade, said coordinator Karen Determan.
In Wright County, the jury meets monthly to consider between seven and 10 cases involving first-time offenders. It does not track recidivism rates for each participant, but Determan said the program has been successful.
Restorative justice advocates also point to a quicker resolution of cases than occurs in traditional juvenile court.
The typical path for local juvenile offenses often goes through the Washington County attorney’s office and a youth court. Young offenders receive their disposition, or sentence, within 30 days of admitting to the offense. Initial probation of 90 days or six months can follow.
First Assistant County Attorney Sue Harris said the department supports the teen court program. She acknowledged that a juvenile’s case can be resolved quicker through that alternative route.
“If you do it directly in the community,” she said, “in theory it’s going to happen quickly.”
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