MARCH 9, 2011

Good News! Valley of the Sun YMCA offers teen court

PHOENIX – The Valley of the Sun YMCA through their Community Initiatives coordinates, Teen Court, a volunteer program that offers teens the opportunity to teach restorative justice to their peers. Teen defendants are assigned consequences by a “jury of their peers” for their minor offenses. After an admission of guilt, a teen defendant will be scheduled to appear before one of the 18 sessions held monthly. Each month, approximately 40 juvenile offenders and 110 teen volunteers participate and learn how the justice system works.

The main objective of Teen Court is to give the victim, offender, and community a way to be fully restored. Restorative justice is a concept that allows all to: 1) understand the impact of criminal behavior to the offender; 2) repair the harm done to the victim and community; 3) and empower victims in their need of closure. Teen Courts assign consequences that are specifically designed to provide education and guidance to the offender so that they will make better choices in the future.

Ann, a recent teen offender, was charged with running away and curfew. She had been taken away from her mother by the CPS, and the father was “not in the picture”. Her aunt, who fostered five children, could only offer her a place to sleep. The Teen Jury assigned consequences that included guidance toward future education. Since appearing before Teen Court, this teen has completed her consequences, is completing her GED, and plans to attend post-secondary school for early child care. “Teen Court is powerful because it allows teens to be judged by their peers in an environment that helps provide support to the teen defendant so they are least likely to recommit a crime,” adds Beth Haugen, Endowment Director.

The Valley of the Sun YMCA, through the YMCA Community Initiatives, is proud to be a part of Teen Court  – implementing restorative justice so that all teens can “reach farther” and make a better life for themselves and their community.