What is Teen Court?
Teen Court is a voluntary alternative program to the criminal justice system for teens that have committed first time misdemeanor offenses such as, but not limited to, shoplifting, damage to property, criminal mischief, school altercations, and drug & alcohol charges. The court room is run by teens that sentence their peers with the intent of repairing the harm caused by the offender, and providing education to make better decision for their future.
Teen Court also offers an educational opportunity for teens who may be interested in the Criminal Justice field to earn community service, and experience by becoming active members of the courtroom.
2017 Teen Court Student Volunteer Appreciation & Awards Night. Student volunteers went bowling and were recognized for all their hard work and dedication to the program!
Why Teen Court?
The philosophy of our Teen Court program is based on restorative justice and seeking to repair the harm font to the victim and the community. Teen Court strives to promote in the teens feelings of self-esteem, personal growth and accountability for their actions, and future.
How does Teen Court Work?
Teen Court hearings are held at our two courtroom locations. We have a rotation of district judges who oversee the courtroom, and Teen Court proceedings. UNH Law students mentor our teen attorneys with case preparation, and at the sentencing hearing. Defendants are questioned by both the teen defense and prosecution attorneys to determine the circumstances of the offense, and make closing remarks to the jury.
Our teen jury will than proceed to participate in a deliberation process where they will consider all of the facts and circumstances of the case. The teen jury will determine a air and constructive sentence, which may include community service, jury duty, education programs, essays, restitution, and letters of apology to the victim.
Teen Court Student Volunteers sitting on the jury getting ready to deliberate for a sentencing hearing.
Where are the Teen Court hearings held?
Merrimack County Teen Court currently has two locations for sentencing hearings:
2 White Street, Concord NH 03301 ( UNH School of Law)
7 Hancock Terrace, Franklin NH 03235 ( Franklin District Courthouse)
Hearings are held every Tuesday (alternating locations) from 4:30-6:30 (times may vary depending on number of cases)
Please see schedule for exact dates and times for each location. Cancellations due to inclement weather , or other circumstances will be announced via Facebook, email, mix 94.1fm, and/or Remind ( App)
What is the Criteria to Participate(Offender)?
- Must be a first-time offender
- Offender must admit involvement/guilt of the offense
- Offender must be between the age 12-18
- Offender and parent/guardian must agree to participate in the program
What are the benefits of Teen Court?
- The teen offenders are held accountable for their actions.
- Both the teen offenders and teen volunteers learn about due process, restorative justice and the benefits of volunteering within their own community promoting positive improvements.
- Teen Court reduces the likelihood of repeat offenses, and serves as a positive and supportive learning experience.
- Teen Court offers a platform for the teen volunteers to learn public speaking skills, scholarships, and leadership opportunities.
Teen Court Volunteer Criteria
Teen Volunteers must be in middle or high school (ages 12-18) who may be interested in the criminal justice field, and a desire to improve their community and empower their peers. Teen Volunteers can assume various roles in the court room from Defense and Prosecution Attorneys, Bailiff, Court Clerk, and Jurors. Teen Volunteers will complete a free training program, and get to interact with various guest speakers and field trips. Teen Court volunteers get the opportunity to work side by side with presiding Judges on our legal system, and UNH Law Students who mentor the students who want to be student attorneys.
Teen Court Student Volunteers & UNH Law Mentors
Teen Court Student Volunteer of the Year & Adult Mentor of the Year
What are the Benefits of Volunteering?
- Earn community service hours for schools or groups
- Allows you to put experience on your college application, or job resume
- Learn about the legal system & career opportunities
- Meet teens from other towns & cities
- Work with real attorneys, judges, and law students
- Earn possible scholarships for your participation
- Letters of recommendations for college
- Opportunities to join a Teen Court Bar Association
Teen Court Student Volunteers participating in training program to learn more about the courtroom, and judicial system.
UNH Law Mentors presenting one of our student volunteers with the award of Volunteer of the Quarter
Chief Goldstein of Franklin Police Department came and talked to our Teen Court Student Volunteers. Teen Court has guest speakers from the community, and the criminal justice field to further expand the volunteer experience for our students.
For further information about the Teen Court Program and how you can become involved please contact:
Kristen Ivon, Teen Court Coordinator
Check us out on Facebook : Merrimack-county teen-court NH
Juvenile Services Programs
15-hour educational/ self-assessment community base early intervention program focusing on drugs and alcohol abuse and other high risk behaviors
Positive Decision Making:
6 hours course focusing on decision making processes.
Our participants learn and practice a five step process and analyze their own decisions through daily journal writing.
In addition we explore the role of peer pressure as an influence in the decision making process and emphasize strongly the role of accomplice.
The primary goals include awareness of consequences and empowering responsibility, thereby enabling them to make educated decisions.
This program is also an educational/ self-assessment program aimed at the first time offenders as does our other programs
Our Smokers education program implements and utilizes Graphic materials that are used in educating the students to the hazards of smoking and helping them assess where they are in their addiction process.
Referrals are from the courts, schools, parents and police.
- Anger Management:
10 hour program is offered in order to foster a better understanding of anger’s origin and one’s own personal anger style, which helps to promote self-discipline, awareness and control.
9 hour intervention program addresses the categories and motives of juvenile firesetting behavior
In our effort we educate the family as well as the juvenile about the consequences of the misuse of fire
Shoplifting: (Our Newest Program)
6 hours educational/ self- assessment program aimed reducing/ eliminating shoplifting
There is a review of the NH juvenile court system and laws
Participants explore the consequences of shoplifting, addresses, the root cause and motives, the effects on the community and the individual
With our prevention program we presents to schools and communities addressing adolescent problem behaviors and consequences.
There’s a review of the NH juvenile court system and laws frequently disobeyed by juveniles
Provides youth and parent who may be un aware of changes or application in the juvenile laws
Specific requests such as drugs and alcohol education are also done
7 hour course focuses on recognizing and understanding the different form of bullying and the roles involved
We explore the laws and consequences of a bullying and develop prevention skills
This 8 hour program is ideal for grades 6-12
It includes resources used is from the Common Sense Education’s Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum
And aims to raise the youth’s awareness about the safe and responsible use of digital media
Diversion Community Accountability Board Volunteer
Represent your community in the restorative justice process by serving on a restorative accountability board hearing. Volunteers are essential to the success of court diversion, as they represent the voice of the community and help participants understand how their actions have affected others. Serve on a board that designs strength based contracts for youth that have committed an offense of the law. Training is provided. Board hearings occur monthly and are coordinated by the CAB coordinators in both our North and South offices.
Who can volunteer?
Citizens from the varying towns/cities within Merrimack County with an interest in alternative sentencing strategies for juvenile offenders.
Volunteers must pass a criminal background check.
Prior experience with youth is required.
An understanding of restorative justice is preferred but not required.
Essential Duties & Responsibilities:
- Attend CAB hearings and design strength-based contracts for youth.
- Attend required trainings/meetings coordinated by the Juvenile Services staff.
- Assist CAB coordinator with various tasks during hearings.
- Attend exit interviews with youth/family.
- Follow all policies and procedures regarding confidentiality of youth and families.
What is a restorative community accountability board hearing?
Not all teens need the power of the court system to help them improve their choices and that’s where the Diversion process comes in – as a community response that holds first-time juvenile offenders accountable for their actions.
The community accountability hearing is attended by 2-3 adult volunteers from the local community, the youth and a parent/guardian.
The CAB process is as follows:
CAB volunteers review youth’s initial intake information (police report, intake questionnaire, staff notes).
CAB volunteers hear each juvenile’s case which includes an essay that the juvenile reads about the offense they committed. CAB volunteers will have time to ask questions to the youth.
CAB volunteers agree on a restorative contract and explain the contract expectations to the youth and parent/guardian.
Community Engagement Board
All participants in the diversion program are required to complete 15 hours of community engagement. This can include volunteer time at a non-profit agency as well as projects that address real community needs. Participants are able to choose how they would like to complete their community engagement hours.
Community engagement hours are a way for youth to engage in their community in a positive way. In a more traditional sense, it is a way for the participant to give back to the community, creating a restorative effect on the offender, their victim and the community. Additionally, participants are able to develop a deeper understanding of how to promote constructive change, form meaningful, working relationships with people outside their peer groups, develop a deeper understanding of the causes and effects of community problems and gain a sense of their own effectiveness.
Community Engagement Project:
Goals & Objectives
Youth will be able to:
- Understand the legal and judicial system.
- Repair harm they have done to victims and the community.
- Analyze their own needs and the needs of others.
- Develop competencies that will enable them to become responsible and productive citizens.
- Understand the impact their actions have on others.
- Identify and act upon opportunities to make meaningful contributions to their families, schools, peer groups, and communities.
- Develop a personal stake in the future of their community.
- Increase life and coping skills.
- Reconnect with the community in a positive way.
We are always looking for non-profit agencies for our youth to volunteer. If you work for a non-profit and would like more information about working with our youth volunteers, please contact the Community Engagement Project Coordinator.
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