Teen Courts Could Help Restore Teen Offenders to their Families

Over time societies have contemplated how to correctly implement ideas that effectively rehabilitate juvenile offenders. Since the creation of juvenile courts some jurisdictions have instituted “Teen Courts” in an effort to promote the philosophy that “positive peer pressure in an educational setting” will help teenagers be less likely to run afoul of the law after their initial wrongdoings. Now Teen Courts “are considered one of the fastest growing juvenile prevention and intervention programs in the country.” Jonathan Falk, Regent Law Rising 3L, has researched this topic, and written a fabulous article entitled "Stuck in the Middle With You: The Rise of Teen Courts and the Ability of Juveniles to Positively Influence Each Other’s Lives." Teen Courts can be extremely useful in helping to restore teen offenders to their own families, rather than to a prison cell.

He writes:
"Teen Courts have been implemented throughout the nation, and many have led to reduced recidivism rates along with improved attitudes of youthful offenders. Further inquiries are required, however before claims about Teen Court effectiveness can be sustained. Based on statistical research and other evidence, this article will show that Teen Courts are effective in discouraging and preventing juvenile delinquency by providing teens with both second chances and positive peer influence."
Falk's article analyzes the impact of Teen Courts nationally, and specifically in North Carolina. The first section provides a short synopsis of the rise of the juvenile justice system and its history within the United States. The second section lays out the standard Teen Court model showing its procedures and listing its participants while also providing the statutory background for the North Carolina Teen Court system. The third section provides the rationale behind the Teen Court system, referencing the model’s mission statement, listing the specific benefits to those involved, and noting the long-term goals of the Teen Court model. The fourth section provides research to show the effectiveness of the Teen Court model both in North Carolina and nationally. Finally, a short conclusion brings together all these arguments to show that Teen Court’s are cost effective in rehabilitating juveniles, and that all jurisdictions should implement these ideas within their juvenile justice system.

The history behind the juvenile justice system illuminates the importance of the recent trend of implementing Teen Courts. The context and progression of justice for teens is well served by Teen Courts, because it invovles the teen's parents, family members and peers in the judicial process. This method of juvenile jurisprudence is one which thrives in a restorative context for teen offenders.

Read the entire article here.


  1. Working in the juvenile assessment and counseling unit in my home county, I encountered a wide variety of children and adolescents in diverse stages of mental and emotional development. If I learned anything, it is the importance of understanding the impact that different influences can make in a juvenile's life. To assess the needs of each individual, a juvenile counselor must investigate the external and internal factors affecting the juvenile's development and lifestyle. While the "method of juvenile jurisprudence" may not be appropriate for every case, recognizing the significance of positive peer influence (and using it to the advantage of children that would benefit from such a program) is a great step in the direction of discerning other methods to help young people value and understand the consequences of their decisions.

  2. I had the opportunity to observe the Juvenile court system in Virginia. I feel the judges I observed did have the best interest of the teenagers in mind. Typically upon sentencing, the judge would take the time out to address the teenager individually and tell them that what they are doing is leading them down the wrong path and that he is giving them the opportunity to turn it around and get their life on track. I think this is a great mindset to apply to the court system when dealing with teenagers. There should be opportunities afforded to teenagers to change their lives and learn from their mistakes.