When you think of teen offenses, you might think of teens that had bright futures that are now tarnished. Common thinking may be that some deserve it, most are forced into it by peer pressure, and others are guilty by association; tragedy for young people who meant no ill harm in these offences. However, all is not lost for these teens, because Teen Court of Sarasota was created in 1988 by the Sarasota Chapter League of Women Voters and Junior League of Sarasota, as a way of reducing crimes among teens and instill a sense of abiding to the law, giving teens an idea of how civic matters should be handled in the real world. The long and short of Teen Court is that it’s like JROTC/ROTC, but without the military aspect in the sense that it’s about preparing for life after high school. Despite how little research has gone into the Teen Court of Sarasota, it is very much known of what they do and what they stand for.
Over time, Teen Court of Sarasota has added multiple programs and services to make itself more approachable than a regular district court room as well educating the dangers of future negative behaviors. This includes, among other things, the Risky Behavior Class which specializes in the concerns parents or guardians have for their teen and addressing them as well as helping them avoid risky behavior in the future. In total, from the years 1989 to 2011, there are seven services and three programs provided by Teen Court of Sarasota.
Now we know what the Teen Court of Sarasota is, it’s time we understand the importance of such a program. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, as of 2018, over 700,000 teens were arrested for any criminal offense that was being committed. Many criminal offenders do not intend to cause pain; most crimes were caused by peer pressure, poor home life, or low income. This is horrible to see, knowing that all these teens with career prospects and dreams will have additional challenges to accomplish them. This is also where Teen Court of Sarasota steps in to save the day.
The main topping of Teen Court of Sarasota is the ability to, for lack of better word, absolve their current criminal record. The way that Teen Court of Sarasota operates is no different than the common court room, however. The prosecutor, defending counsel, jurors, clerks, and bailiffs are comprised of teens all trained by The Florida Bar with one adult judge present. The teen offender, in this case, must complete an assigned sentence, a written apology to the victim, Peer Counseling, and a drug test. These sentences can range from fifty hours of community service to six jury duties. If the teen completes these tasks, the teen’s record will be scrubbed clean and the charges dismissed.
By now, you see the importance of Teen Court of Sarasota. This is an admirable thing to do. Youth.gov says that “Though overall rates have been declining over the past years, approximately 1.7 million delinquency cases are disposed in juvenile courts annually.” Again, far too many. If this is not enough to convince you, then let the stories of the individuals who went to Teen Court of Sarasota speak. Alina’s story is one of hope for a better future. After doing marijuana while driving, she believed that her life was over until Teen Court of Sarasota helped her get back on track. There are countless teens like her who, after committing an offense, believe whatever future they had is now over. Therefore, Teen Court is valuable, and word should be spread about this organization.
Now you may be thinking to yourself “This program seems amazing! How can I get involved with this organization?”. To get involved with Teen Court of Sarasota, all that you need to do is head to their website via the link (https://www.sarasotateencourt.org/) and locate the Volunteer tab which tells you where and when you’ll meet if you wish to contribute. Teen offenses, in the United States, are often unintentional or due to poor environment. However, the justice system does not discriminate between intentional and accidental. An article by Miami Herald ranked Hillsborough County Sheriff Office as the one making the highest number of arrests in Florida. Teen Court of Sarasota was created help keep teens out of the adult justice system and has upheld its original value and we should be grateful they have.