Teen Court celebrates 10th anniversary at Cooley Law School

Lansing Teen Court celebrated its 10th anniversary October 15, 2010 at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Cooley provides office space for the program and courtroom space for the hearings. Cooley students also serve as youth advocates and jury monitors. In addition, Cooley students also assist with Street Law Workshops.

Stuart Dunnings III, Prosecuting Attorney for Ingham County, served as the keynote speaker for the anniversary event.

"The keynote address delivered by Prosecuting Attorney Stuart Dunnings was particularly endearing as he cited the collective effort of so many judicial officials and community leaders who have contributed so much time and resources toward the obvious success that the program has achieved,'' said Mike Botke, director of the program. ''We also really appreciated the visit by Jack Levine, the National Youth Court Director honoring Teen Court Lansing with his commentary on our accomplishments in Ingham County."

Teen Court provides juvenile justice diversion services to over 200 first-time youth offenders per year as referred by the Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney's Office and Circuit Court-Family Division.

''The Teen Court Juvenile Justice Program had much to celebrate on Friday," Botke said. "Ten years ago, the community implemented a unique Juvenile Justice Program that engages and looks upon teens as a resource. Accountability, personal responsibility and a greater awareness of civic duty and community service is what we are teaching our youth."

Youths charged with minor offenses appear before a jury of their peers, who determine how the youth can repair the harm caused to the victim and community, and what services the youth may need to achieve personal success. Once the youth completes the peer jury's sanctions, the court petition is dismissed and the youth does not incur a formal juvenile criminal record. The program has a 90 percent success rate.

''Teen Court is as much an education program as it is a juvenile justice diversion program," Botke explained. "It takes courage for teens to stand in front of a jury of their peers during their court accountability hearing step. Giving first-time juvenile offenders an opportunity to repair the harm they caused in committing misdemeanor offenses is not only cost-effective, it works as a sound intervention, prevention and education program teaching our youth how to become part of the solution to community and personal challenges instead of being looked upon as the problem.''

A total of 4,518 youths have been recruited and trained through a collaboration with Eastern, Sexton, Everett, Mason, Dansville, Williamston, East Lansing, and Okemos high schools.

Teen Court is a program of Child & Family Services, which was founded nearly 100 years ago.

Published: Thu, Oct 28, 2010

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