Academic level – Undergraduate 1-2
Type of paper – Analysis
Topic Title – Teen courts
The findings of whether teen court works are mixed. What is, in your opinion, the biggest problem with teen court?
Based on the readings and other materials you find (academic or non-academic), say how we can minimize, if not eliminate, this problem.
The effectiveness of teen court programs in the juvenile justice system has been debated because of the lack of studies on the following topic, outdated information, and decentralization of the approach. According to some of the studies, teen courts are cost-effective and help the criminal justice system in a faster and fairer distribution of court decisions (Hartsell & Novak, 2022). At the same time, the efficiency of teen courts compared to probation or drug courts was put into question, and it is not entirely clear whether the recent data shows the actual benefits of teen court programs. I believe that different demands and varying levels of resources dedicated to the teen courts across the U.S. is among the most significant issues from the perspective of legality and positive influence on the offender.
The lack of consistency in teen courts can lead to highly different outcomes for relatively similar crimes, not due to poor preparation among the jurors but because of varying funding and different demands. Probably one of the most illustrative issues related to teen courts is the extreme lack of recent data on the following topic. For example, most of the scientific evidence about teen courts was published between the 1990s and 2000s. One of the most objective examinations of the teen courts was presented by John J. Wilson in 2000. In his report, Wilson noted that teen court programs are primarily assessed based on the specific demands of separate states (2000). Therefore, the participants’ level of preparation and attitudes to criminal offenses are majorly affected by the program and its funding. It creates uneven standards and perpetuates unfairness in the treatment of similar misconducts.
The subsequent issue can be addressed by creating a federal-based requirement system that presents equal demands to all states in training young jurors. This measure signifies the need for a centralized oversight that creates accountability not in the youth participants but in those who train and prepare them. The funding should be relatively equal in terms of training and education because these factors directly affect the quality of the teen courts. Although it can increase funding requirements, the current data indicates that teen courts allow the criminal justice system to have a cheaper court process Hartsell & Novak, 2022). Thus, it is reasonable to introduce some corrections that would develop a fairer system. Because some teens can put even harsher punishments on their peers because they view them as equal, it can have the potential to decrease the punishment rate.
Finally, it is important to create guidelines for sentencing, introduce more adult mentors, and establish collaboration with legal experts. Although the teen courts are seen as effective, it is also partially arguable if the participants adhere to the same guidelines, and that is why this step is vital. The adult mentors, especially if they are legal experts, would help to make the future teen courts more expert while preserving their initial role. Currently, because the goals of teen courts are generally softer than punishing juvenile offenders, the primary values of such models are evident. Nonetheless, continuing the current practice can be inefficient without a more unified approach. By implementing comprehensive training, supervision, clear guidelines, and an appeals process, teen court programs can take substantial steps towards minimizing, if not eliminating, this problem.
Hartsell, E. N., & Novak, A. (2022). A comparison of re-arrest outcomes between youth in Juvenile Drug Court, Teen Court, probation, and dismissed cases. Crime & Delinquency, 68(10), 1819–1846. https://doi.org/10.1177/00111287211073704
Wilson, J. J. (2000). Teen courts: A focus on research. U.S. Department of Justice. https://doi.org/https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/183472.pdf