If you ask Mike Botke to describe exactly what Teen Court is all about, he tells you straight up.
“The Teen Court Program really is about holding young people accountable and giving them a second chance in life,” explains Botke. “Because we all know what happens to people when you have a criminal record. We don’t want these young people to have a criminal record.”
Botke is the director of the Teen Court program in Ingham County, one of the juvenile justice diversion services that have helped about 175 first-time juvenile offenders each year since 2001. He helps young people between the ages of 11-16 who have committed an offense and have had their petitions reviewed and referred by the Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and Circuit Court-Family Division.
When entering the Teen Court program these young people must take responsibility for their offense (admit guilt) and participate in a variety of requirements and services designed to help them resolve risk factors, (such as negative peer pressure, underage drinking, poor school performance), which will enhance their ability to make safe choices and reduce repeat offenses.“Who’s holding them accountable? Well besides the adults like me, it’s their peers,” continues Botke.
“They’re average young people in our community. They’re learning too about the importance of making good choices. They are learning about what happens in the courtroom. They’re learning more about the law, and they are learning about how to be good citizens.”
Targeted Teen Court Program Outcomes (all youth participants):
- Personal Success: Enhance Skills, Positive Self Identity and Confidence to Succeed
- Reduce Underage Drinking and Use of Other Illegal Drugs
- Remain In School / Increase School Attendance and Overall School Success
- Increase Family Success: Boundaries, Expectations, Positive Communication
- Earn Dismissal of Code of Conduct Offense (resolving risk factors and increase school engagement)
- Gain New Law Knowledge and Personal Skills
- Spend Constructive Time Engaging in Peer Jury Duty – practice “Good Citizenship”
- Increase Awareness of How Safe Choices can Increase Personal Success
Do peer pressure messages carry more weight? What do you think?