PHOENIX — High school students from around the Valley participated in Teen Court on Wednesday. Each year the event is held as part of Law Day.
Around 50 teens participated.
Organizers said Teen Court acts as a diversion program. It offers participants "an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and serves as a pathway toward offense resolution without a formal court process."
For those who participate, Teen Court can serve as an alternative to a school suspension or an alternative to a formal police complaint for theft or other misdemeanors.
Some of the teens are also looking to further their futures.
"Several of the participants have an interest in pursuing a career within the court system to include probation officers as well as attorneys,” said Commissioner Genene Dyer.
While at Teen Court, the participants were assigned courtroom roles, including judge, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, jury, courtroom assistant, clerk, and victim advocate.
Superior Court judges were on hand to watch as teens undertook the roles.
“Judges observing a Teen Court case can provide feedback to participants in various roles, which often furthers a participant’s interest in pursuing a career in law,” said Dyer.
Organizers said participants of Teen Court "do not determine guilt or innocence but learn about the court process by assigning restorative justice consequences to hold peers accountable using established guidelines."
The event partnered with the Safe Schools Focus on Excellence Youth Program.
The program was founded in 2000 by former Maricopa County juvenile probation officer Pamela Neal.
It works to prevent criminal activity among young people by providing programs that educate them about the law, character development, and training.
The hope is they will become leaders and work to better their communities.
“Teen Court is a labor of love and a collaborative effort with our various community partners to train children and youth ages 8-17 to serve as leaders within their school and their community," Neal said.
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