Teen court provides valuable lessons

There is another local court program every Wednesday evening. It is called Verde Valley Teen Court. Mrs. Ingrid Lashley, Camp Verde High school probation officer, asked me to visit the Teen Court proceedings one night. I felt that it was a very positive and educational program for the young people as well as for adults.

The fall of 2002 was the beginning for Teen Court at Camp Verde High School. Seven Camp Verde high school students were combined with an existing program from Mingus Union High school in which students run a courtroom and work on actual juvenile criminal cases from the Verde Valley.

Students may work on a case in any of the following capacities: prosecutor, defense attorney, juror, clerk or bailiff. These students give up their Wednesday evenings for the entire semester and in turn earn a valuable experience plus credit toward graduation.

The cases that students work are real cases of delinquent juveniles who have committed offenses. The juveniles are given the opportunity to go before the Teen Court instead of being seen by a judge in Superior Court. The attorneys prosecute and defend the juvenile and plead the case to the jury for what they feel would be a constructive sentence with appropriate consequences.

The jury then deliberates and returns with a unanimous sentence for the juvenile to complete. Sentencing may include community service, fines, counseling, and letters of apology, required Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings, written reports and even a requirement of holding signs up outside Wal-Mart that read “Wal-Mart Prosecutes Shoplifters.”

If the juvenile fails to complete any part of the sentence, the case is referred to the Yavapai County attorney’s office for formal prosecution in Superior court. The philosophy of teen court is that teens respond better to a jury of their peers than adults in authority. In today’s society, peer pressure plays a major role among our youth. Teen court is definitely the one type of peer pressure that can influence positive decision-making.

Since July there have been three females and 11 males take advantage of the program. The types of offenses included shoplifting, drug possession, minor consumption, traffic offenses and curfew violations. The sentencing options have been community service, home service, reports, jury duty, apology letters, restitution, victims fees and holding signs at Wal-Mart. I commend all those students and adults working with the program.

Camp Verde Schools are on winter break until Jan. 6. This is to remind basketball fans that the Yvonne Johnson Basketball Tournament for both boys and girls will be on Dec. 27-28. Check with Mark Showers, athletic director, for a complete schedule.

Have a safe and happy holiday season.

Steve Marshall is the principal at Camp Verde High School.


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