Teen Courts are an alternative to regular juvenile justice processing. These courts use peer volunteers for jurors, advocates/attorneys, and sometimes judges to encourage a youth to see that they made a poor decision rather than labeling them as a bad person. In this evaluation, delinquent teens were randomly assigned to treatment as usual (regular juvenile justice processing) or to the teen court condition. The evaluation found negative results for adolescents assigned to the Teen Court condition; they were significantly more likely to be delinquent than those in
the treatment as usual condition.
DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM
Target Population: Juvenile offenders
This program attempts to use a different model to give first-time, juvenile offenders with misdemeanors or minor offenses a different experience from the traditional juvenile justice system. The program recreates a courtroom setting and uses peers to occupy jury, judge, and attorney positions. The peer jury decides on a punishment such as an apology letter, drug tests, counseling, or a school project.
EVALUATION OF PROGRAM:
Stickle, W. P., Connell, N. M., Wilson, D. M., & Gottfredson, D. (2008). An experimental
evaluation of teen courts. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 4(2), 137-163.
Evaluated Population: Delinquent teens averaging about 15 years of age were evaluated in this study. Of the sample, most were male and most were white. The sample consisted of adolescents mostly in ninth grade.
Approach: The authors measured self-reported behavioral and attitudinal measures: drug use, variety of drug use, delinquent behavior, social skills, neighborhood attachment, rebelliousness, and belief in conventional rules. They
collected two official reports as well: rate of offending and re-arrest.
Results: Self-reported delinquency was significantly higher in the treatment group (teen court) compared with the control group (treatment as usual).The treatment group was significantly more likely (effect size, d=0.51) to report delinquency than the control group. Several outcomes were borderline significant in a negative direction: drug use, variety of drug use, and recidivism according to official records of delinquent behavior. Other variables were non-significant: social skills, neighborhood attachment, rebelliousness, belief in conventional rules, rate of offending, and re-arrest. Without controls for demographic variables, self-reported delinquency and a belief in conventional rules were both significantly worse in the treatment group.
SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Stickle, W. P., Connell, N. M., Wilson, D. M., & Gottfredson, D. (2008). An experimental evaluation of teen courts. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 4(2), 137-163.
Adolescence (12-17), Youth (16+), Community-Based, Externalizing Problems,
Conduct Problems, Delinquency (e.g., truancy, vandalism, theft, assault, etc),
Illicit Drugs, Juvenile Offenders, High School, White or Caucasian.
Program information last updated 6/29/09