The Jefferson County Teen Court will host a mini law camp from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the Jack Jones Juvenile Justice Center Building, 301 E. Second Ave.
The Sixth Division Circuit Court (juvenile court) proclaimed September as Teen Court Month and will conduct the mini law camp in recognition of the observance.
The teen court program generally runs from September through April. In Jefferson County, teen court hearings are held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 4 p.m. The program is open to all Jefferson County students in grades 9-12, according to a news release.
“The Jefferson County Teen Court program gives first-time offenders, between the ages of 10 and 17, a second chance, yet holds them accountable for their actions,” according to the release. “The defendant must stand before a jury of their peers, plead guilty and accept the sanctions they impose. Teen volunteers, ages 13 to 17, act as defense attorney, prosecuting attorney, bailiff, clerk and jury. The only participating adult in the courtroom is the judge.”
Sixty four youth volunteers conducted approximately 1,478 hours of service to the program in the 2018-2019 school year, according to Jeffrey Billingsley, Jefferson County Teen Court coordinator.
Teen court volunteers also provided approximately 434 hours of service to local agencies such as B.R.A.V.E. (Pine Bluff Black Firefighters), National Night Out and the Pine Bluff Police Department Toy Drive in which the volunteers donated more than 50 toys and other items to children in need.
“Our program has been a positive force in the lives of approximately 22 teens this year by providing them a second chance while holding them accountable for their behavior,” according to the release.
“Youth courts (also called teen, peer, and student courts) are diversion programs in which youth are sentenced by their peers for minor crimes, offenses. These programs offer communities an opportunity to provide immediate consequences for primarily first-time youthful offenders,” according to the release.
The programs are intended as alternatives to the traditional juvenile justice system.
“Typically, youth court offenders are first-time offenders between ages 10 and 17 who have been charged with misdemeanor or status offenses, with offenses including theft, vandalism, disorderly conduct, assault,” according to the release. “Youth court diversion programs offer an avenue for engaging the community in a partnership with the juvenile justice system to respond to the problem of juvenile crime by (1) increasing awareness of the delinquency issues within the local community, and (2) mobilizing youth to take an active role in addressing the problem of juvenile crime within the community.”
Details: Jeffrey Billingsley, Jefferson County Teen Court coordinator, 870-541-5455.