Teen Court




According to Bazemore and Umbreit (1994), the emerging concept of the balanced approach mission  is designed to focus on: (a) accountability, (b) competency development, and (c) community protection.  Additionally, their work notes that the philosophy of restorative justice (McLagan, 1992) is based on several key values and assumptions, as follows:


ü                   Offenders, victims, and their communities should  all be included in responding to crimes;

ü                   Local communities and government should have complementary roles in responding to crimes;

ü                   Accountability is first based on offenders understanding the harm caused by their actions (Awareness component), then accepting responsibility for said harm - and making amends.

Therefore, the main purposes of Sussex Teen Court are as follows:


   ü          Holding youth accountable -  by offering opportunities to make amends for the damage caused  - through various, individualized sanctions, such as: community service, apology, (written or oral), research paper, educational workshops/counseling, restitution, mandatory peer jury duty  (minimum one, maximum four), any other creative approaches, and

ü                   Educating youth about the impact their actions have on themselves, victims, and their communities.


   Holding offenders accountable is only the first step toward changing a problem behavior. Social development during the adolescent years usually involves the formation of strong, peer relationships. Accordingly, research suggests a correlation between youths associating with delinquent peers and the development of antisocial attitudes and delinquent behavior. While peer pressure is a normal, healthy, factor in  adolescent development, which may have negative results, it can also be used to redirect and change/solve behavior problems. Thus, sentences imposed by a peer jury send a strong message to youth, in the community, that their peers do not condone illegal behavior.  


   Teen Courts provide communities with a program that allows youth to assume leadership roles and actively participate in addressing the problem of juvenile crime in their communities. Participating youth become more aware (are educated) that they have a stake in the future and in caring for the well-being of their communities (are engaged), and by practicing new roles and skills - they are empowered with valuable, necessary life and coping skills.


   Finally, Teen Court is not a mock trial. It is an alternative, diversion program in which voluntary defendants - referred from the Attorney General’s office, per eligible offenses and advance admissions of guilt - have their cases heard through a formal trial process. Teen Court trials are held before an adult judge, and include youth trained to assume the roles of: defense and prosecuting attorneys, jurors, and bailiffs.




      4 “E”s: Early Interventions + Engaging & Educating             č       Empowering Youths  


     Teen Courts Benefit All Involved          

      1.  Juvenile Offenders/Defendants

      2.  Teen Volunteers

      3.  Community at large

  Benefits to defendants: trial by peers, constructive/individualized sentences, forgoing a formal  court appearance, and opportunity to prevent a permanent juvenile record.

  Benefits to teen volunteers: Exposure to & increased knowledge of the legal  system, related  reverse (positive) peer pressure generated from this process, and enhanced life skills, such as listening, problem solving, communication, & conflict resolution - derived from the responsibility of making decisions affecting the welfare of other teens. Thus, teen courts educate, enhance leadership skills, build self-esteem & develop pride in community citizenship.

  Benefits to the Community: In addition to those aforementioned, having fewer youths involved in the more formal court process - while reducing & preventing juvenile crime & it’s intangible costs (emotional impact caused to victims, distress to defenders’ families, and general fear within the community). Improved public safety.


Note:  Every effort is made to insure the information provided on the pages is timely and correct.  However, users should keep in mind that this information is provided only as a public convenience.   In any case where legal reliance on information is required, the official records of Sussex Teen Court should be consulted.