Pima County Teen Court (PCTC) is a juvenile crime diversion program that uses a restorative justice model and community service learning activities to reduce juvenile court recidivism in Pima County, Arizona. Each youth enters PCTC by participating in a Teen Court hearing in which he or she is “sentenced” to complete a set of constructive consequences by a jury of his or her peers. Each of the constructive sentences was designed using best practice strategies, restorative justice, and service learning model programs. Teen Court is offered as an alternative to prosecution for 450 youth (12-17 years of age) per year referred by Pima County Juvenile Court Center for misdemeanors and selected felony crimes (e.g., shoplifting, criminal damage/trespass, assault, minor in possession/consumption of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and others). Studies have demonstrated that Teen Court participants are re-arrested significantly less often than their counterparts who go through the Pima County Juvenile Court Center.
Pima Prevention Partnership - Tucson, Arizona, United States
Pima Prevention Partnership began planning the Teen Court program in response to a 53% increase in referrals to Pima County Juvenile Court since 1989. At that time, juvenile courts across the country followed a traditional structure of justice that assumed most children would not return to the system once they had served their sentence. When those children did, the only option available to the courts was to increase the consequences. In 1992, the Pima County Juvenile Court stepped to the forefront in dealing with juvenile delinquents. It changed its mission statement to reflect a commitment to prevention and to serving the population most likely to benefit from its services, which opened the door for a partnership in creating Pima County Teen Court.
Over twenty officials representing Pima County Juvenile Court, Tucson City Council, the mayor, the county attorney, the state attorney general, and numerous community-based agencies and educational institutions formed the planning committee for Pima County Teen Court. Soon youth members joined to guide decisions relating to types of offenses to be handled, location, and types of consequences. The project partners believed that youthful offenders who are referred to Pima Teen Court could have a positive learning experience. The mission became “empowering youth and their families to make effective decisions through law-related education, positive peer opinion, and personal and civic responsibility”. The objective was clear: to reduce juvenile delinquency and increase civic involvement. To this end, Pima County Teen Court utilizes restorative justice strategies, community service learning techniques, and positive peer pressure to help youth avoid unhealthy risk-taking behavior.
In 2007, Pima Prevention Partnership received funds from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to implement and conduct research on Pima County Teen Court. Evaluators compared 4,302 cases from Teen Court to 1,306 from the Pima County Juvenile Court Center. Overall, at three and six months following their participation in the program, Teen Court participants have significantly lower recidivism (re-arrest) than participants who simply went through the Juvenile Court system.
Pima Teen Court is constantly evaluating the program content by administering satisfaction surveys for participating youth, their families, and program volunteers, as well as using feedback from juvenile court. For example, when funding was cut from a program that served youth who had been arrested for domestic violence, Pima Teen Court revised its anger management workshop to address this issue. Similarly, upon learning from the County Attorney that there was an increase in arrests for “sexting”, Teen Court created a workshop on internet safety and self-esteem.
Each year, Pima County Teen Court applies for funding from a diverse arena of sources including federal, state, and local governments, private foundations, and corporations. On average, Pima Teen Court receives funding from 8-10 sources each year. Since its inception in 1995, funding amounts have gone up and down with the economy. Despite this, the Pima Prevention Partnership is committed to continuing to seek new funding source to sustain the Pima County Teen Court.
Pima County Teen Court is now in its 15th year and has effectively served more than 5,200 youth referred from the Pima County Juvenile Court. Additionally, Pima County Teen Court has trained and placed more than 16,000 youth volunteers in leadership positions since its inception (over 1,000 volunteers annually). In 2007, Pima Prevention Partnership received funds from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to implement and conduct research on Pima County Teen Court. In a comparison of 4,302 cases from Pima County Teen Court to 1,306 from Pima County Juvenile Court Center, evaluators found that Pima Teen Court participants have significantly lower recidivism (re-arrest) at three and six months following their participation in the program. Additionally, survey analysis indicates a statistically significant improvement in family functioning and that most participants’ risk attitudes and substance use remained stable or improved. And all of this is achieved with a budget of approximately $430 per youth compared to $1,635 - $21,000 per youth remaining in the juvenile justice system.
Pima County Teen Court's Website: http://pcteencourt.com/