Peer court, also known as youth or teen court, is an alternative approach to the traditional juvenile justice system. A youth charged with an offense has the opportunity to forgo the hearing and sentencing procedures of juvenile court
and agrees to a sentencing forum with a jury of the youth's peers. Youth court is under the supervision of a judge, and youth defendants and volunteers play a variety of roles in the judicial process, such as district attorney or public defender. Youth courts are youth-focused and youth-driven and are designed and operated to empower youth.
Youth courts in California have been growing at a phenomenal rate over the last 15 years. In 1991, with only two youth courts in California, there are now over 80 in California and over 1,400 nationwide.
For more information, click on the Youth Courts Fact Sheet.
Youth Court Summit
The Youth Court Summit is a project of the Judicial Council’s Collaborative Justice Courts Advisory Committee, and is the primary training event for youth courts across the state. Since 2006, the Youth Court Summit has been co-sponsored by the California Association of Youth Courts, Inc. (CAYC) and is open to youth statewide. The summit is held as a Southern California/Northern California alternating regional event to ensure that youth from each region have an opportunity to attend at least one event every other year.
The summit brings together youth and peer court staff, juvenile bench officers, education experts, judges, and staff of youth-focused organizations who share ideas and best practices about youth courts. Each year at the summit, youth are given the opportunity to lead their own discussions and offer ideas on how to improve youth courts.
In 2012, the CAYC included a Student Advisory Committee made up of six student members. After an open application process, six youth were carefully selected by the CAYC Board of Directors to serve on the Advisory Committee for 2012-2013. During the seventh annual California Youth Court Summit which was held June 22-24, 2012 at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, CA, many of the workshops were presented by youth from peer courts across California, incorporating direct input from the inaugural CAYC Student Advisory Committee. Key topics included Suspension Diversion: Methods to Break the Link between School Suspension and Prison, Teen Dating Violence, Truancy, and the SHADES program from Los Angeles which addresses racism and bias. Nearly 200 youth and adults participated at the 2012 summit, which is the largest number of participants since its inception in 2006.
National Association of Youth Courts
Youth Courts Fact Sheet
Peer Court DUI Prevention
The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) partnered with the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to develop and implement the Peer Court DUI Prevention Strategies Program. The goal of the program is to lower the number of DUI offenses in California by altering attitudes and behavior toward reckless activities through educating teens and parents on the dangers of drinking and DUI. An education curriculum specialist authored the DUI Prevention Curriculum with the input of eight mentor peer courts and the program's planning committee, which consisted of technical and educational experts in the area of teen DUI prevention.
After the curriculum was developed, ten peer courts were awarded grants to implement the program. A web designer was hired to develop some of the statewide DUI prevention curriculum components into web-based information to supplement the curriculum. The website is currently available at http://www.stopteendui.com/ The program and website were both professionally evaluated using pre, post and 3-month follow up surveys.
Peer Court DUI Prevention Program Evaluation
There were encouraging results when comparing the pre-survey and post-survey groups of youth. Nearly 78% of the youth peer court participants were educated through the program which resulted in statistically significant increases in knowledge for the teens from pre to post survey. Evaluation results indicate that youth, after receiving the training, demonstrate a more serious attitude towards DUI such as they were more likely to acknowledge that riding in a car with someone under the influence was likely to result in a crash. Another positive finding included the parents influence over their teens. According to the 3-month follow up surveys, the parents talked more frequently to their teens about alcohol/drugs and parents were more aware of who their teen's friends were and where they went, after going through the curriculum.
The teens behavior change was most pronounced between the pre-survey and the 3-month follow up group. The follow-up survey reported that teens were significantly less likely to get into a vehicle with a driver under the influence.