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What is Teen Court?

Teen Court is a voluntary alternative to the Tribal Youth Court system, for youths that have committed a crime or an offense in their community. A youth that has admitted guilt to a crime or an offense, elects to be judged by their peers in determining the sentence to be imposed. Then the jury is presented with evidence relevant to sentencing, deliberates the appropriate components and passes a sentence. Upon completion of the sentence, the offender's record is cleared of the incident.
The Choctaw Tribal Youth Court's main focus is to intervene in early anti-social, delinquent and criminal behavior as well as to reduce the incidence and prevent the escalation of such behavior. Youth Court strives to promote an understanding of self-esteem, a desire for self-improvement and to foster a healthy attitude towards rules and authority.
Teen Court utilizes a teen (peer) jury system which brings together juvenile offenders, their peers and community agencies to determine logical and natural consequences for the offenses that they commit. Next, corrective and preventive steps and intervention processes are utilized with restitution and reconciliation. The purposes of the process are to get the youths to take responsibility for their actions, to provide restitution to the victims, receive appropriate punishment and learn more productive ways of living. A central goal is to give the community an active role in handling juvenile crimes.

Goals of Choctaw Tribal Teen Court

:: Educate the Choctaw youths about their rights, responsibilities and role within the law.

:: Intervene positively to prevent juvenile delinquency and victimization while providing legal information and resources.

:: Remove barriers to allow students access to an experience with legal services.

:: Empower the Tribal youths to become active by providing help to Tribal members throughout their communities.

The Need for Teen Court

The need for a Teen Court program on the Choctaw Indian reservation is evident in the rise of youth related crimes in all of our communities and the limited responses available. Teen Court is designed to deter first time youth offenders and selected others from entering into the Tribal Court System at the Youth Court level. By allowing first time offenders to receive their sentences from Teen Court jurors, it will hopefully accomplish two objectives:

:: Keep them from accumulating a Youth Court file, which will stay active until the age of eighteen.

:: Deter repeat offenders by holding them accountable to their peers. This program will give a chance for the youth of our tribe to have their voices heard and be recognized as young adults rather than just kids.

How Does Teen Court Work

The Teen Court jury is presented with information about the case by the teen attorneys and will select a judgment that is designed to hold the student accountable for his/her actions. The jury may decide that the teen defendant has to complete community service, abide by a curfew, serve on the jury, make restitution, write a report and/or make an apology. The goal of the sentence is not only to help the defendant learn from the consequences of his/her actions, but also to rebuild the broken relationship caused by the crime.