Become a Brunswick County Teen Court fan
If you haven’t heard of Brunswick County Teen Court, it’s time to learn about the program. This year is the program’s 20th Anniversary. Teen Court is a partnership program between Communities In Schools and the Brunswick County District Attorney’s Office, made possible through financial support provided by the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and Brunswick County. Teen Court provides an alternative system of justice for first time juvenile misdemeanor offenders ages 6-17 (which will be raised to age 18 beginning in December 2019 due to recent legislation). Primarily serving students at Brunswick County’s five high schools, Teen Court allows offenders to accept responsibility for their offense, have their case heard by a jury of their peers and complete a constructive sentence so they can avoid a juvenile court record.
Teen Court gives first time offenders a “second chance” to “get things right” and learn from their mistakes. It provides the student volunteers with an opportunity to practice their public speaking and presentation skills while learning more about the legal system. Cases are heard one evening each month at the Brunswick County Courthouse. The school system and the justice system have joined forces in the program, and based on outcomes over the past twenty years, it has been highly successful.
Teen Court sessions are held one Tuesday night each month from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Brunswick County Courthouse. Attending a monthly session highlights the commitment and passion of the volunteer student attorneys, as they display their enthusiasm in questioning and cross-examining witnesses and presenting evidence to the jury.
Everyone in the courtroom at Teen Court sessions is required to take an oath affirming that events taking place in the courtroom will not be discussed – specifically what the cases are about and what sentences are imposed. Student volunteer attorneys and student volunteer court staff gain valuable, first-hand experience about our legal system, with many going on to pursue careers in the field of law following graduation.
The Teen Court program boasts a high effectiveness rate with only a few students each year failing to complete their sentences or reoffending again. For first-time offenders the program gives them an alternative. Instead of going to juvenile court, being given probation and having a criminal record, they are sentenced to restitution, participate in community service projects, observe future Teen Court sessions, write letters of apology, and must continue to obey their parents’ guidelines and attend school regularly. Usually the sentence for a Teen Court offender is a combination of these constructive learning opportunities.
Teen Court gives students a second chance and helps to get them back on the right path. Putting them in a real courtroom with a real judge overseeing the proceedings, while their peers’ cross examine and sentence them, provides them with a tremendous opportunity to understand the workings of the court system and consequences that result when an offense is committed. For many it is a turning point and prevents them from reoffending.
This critical program always needs more student and adult volunteers. To volunteer your time and talents, or for more information regarding the Brunswick County Teen Court Program, contact Sam Davis, Teen Court Director at (910) 253-4087 or firstname.lastname@example.org.