Aug 30, 2011 8:32 PM by Trovette Tottress

Teen Court gives young first-time offenders a second chance

It's a lesson lived and a lesson learned.

"When you are a teenager sometimes you do things that you think is going to be fun, but then you end up in big trouble", said Guillermo Rodriguez.

But not in the way you may think. A new diversion program called Teen Court gives first-time youth offenders a second chance.

"Instead of going through the regular court system, they are judged by a jury of their peers", said Pat Ruffini. "We have peer panels in which our teens listen to the teen that has made the mistake. They talk to the parent, they find out if there are any family problems, and then they decide on a sentence that will help this young person make changes in their lives."

And so far the program has been a success.

"We are down to nine percent of our kids re-offending. If they go to the regular court system the odds are they will have a 45 percent chance of re-offending", said Pat Ruffini.

Teen Court decisions are upheld by the municipal court system. Upon completion of their teen court sentence, the charges filed against them are dropped. It's a great way for teens to learn a lesson without tarnishing their record.

"You know you're going to get out of there with no criminal record if you complete everything. And, you know you're going to be held accountable by people your own age", said Joseph Ruffini.

And they go from being the one in trouble, to helping the next one.

"Every young person that comes through Teen Court sits on a jury and judges the next young offender. So they go a full circle", said Pat Ruffini

A way to erase their past for a chance of a bright future.

For more information about Teen Court click here


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