St. Clair County plans to start 'teen court'

News-DemocratFebruary 21, 2014 

The St. Clair County Juvenile Justice Council has been awarded a $40,000 grant, which will be used in part to establish a "teen court."

The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission awarded the county the grant.

The St. Clair County Juvenile Justice Council was established in 2011 by the State's Attorney's Office and brings together stakeholders in juvenile issues including social services, mental health services, probation, schools officials, prosecutors, police, public defenders, parents and other community organizations.

The grant will support the council's efforts and will in part be used to establish a "teen court," a juvenile delinquency diversion program in which sentences for low level juvenile violations are decided by a jury of teens.

Sentences can include community service, public apologies, restitution and other provisions depending on the nature of the offense.

"Young people come up with some creative and often more effective sentencing for their peers than the cookie cutter criminal system ... Offenders also seem to respond better to the positive peer pressure that happens in teen courts," said State's Attorney Brendan Kelly, who chairs the local council.

Teen court juries will be drawn from civics class students from high schools across St. Clair County. The St. Clair County Juvenile Justice Council will launch teen court later this year.

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