Who We Are and What We Do
           



Peer Juries

Also called Youth, Teen and Student Courts

Restorative Peer Juries are programs in which youth work together with youthful offenders, victims and the community which is sometimes a school setting, to repair harm, build competencies and help to create safer schools and/or communities. Youth Courts typically are set up in different configurations resembling courts, while peer juries often resemble BARJ models of Peacemaking Circles, Accountability Conferencing, or Community Panels. They usually deal with minor delinquent and status offenses and other school or community problem behaviors.

Typically youth sit in circle using a talking piece. While processes vary, the most restorative models include victims as much as possible and join together circle and conferencing process. Some very good processes use a panel configuration. The questions used are restorative questions from conferencing.

Questions such as these are asked of those who have harmed others:

  • "What were you thinking of at the time?"
  • "What should be done to repair the harm?"
  • Who do you think as been affected by what you did?
  • What do you need to do to make things right?
  • How can we make sure this doesn't happen again?

And these questions are asked of those who have been harmed:

  • What did you think when it happened?
  • What have you thought about since?
  • How has it affected you?
  • What's been the worst of it?
  • What's needed to make things right?
  • The resulting agreement is an outcome of the consensus process.

Goals

The goals of peer juries include:

  • Increasing accountability of youth
  • Assisting all those involved to move forward successfully
  • Determining a fair and restorative disposition
  • Supervising the disposition and monitor the outcome

Implementation

Peer Juries require youth to admit guilt prior to participation. When the program or disposition is completed charges or consequences are typically dismissed. Agencies operating and administering youth court programs include juvenile courts, juvenile probation departments, law enforcement, private nonprofit organizations, and schools.

Lessons Learned

According to the Urban Institute's Evaluation of Teen Courts Project, which was based on four teen court programs studied in four different states (Alaska, Maryland, Arizona, and Missouri), the six-month recidivism figures among the programs ranged from 6% to 9%.

Many programs around Illinois are successfully incorporating formerly referred youth into the peer jury, thus creating an additional path to reintegration of the youthful offender into the community.

Practices