KOSCIUSKO — Juvenile offenders in Kosciusko County will now have more alternatives when it comes to youth development. A swearing-in ceremony was held for the Kosciusko Cares Teen Court last night, Nov. 13.
Teen Court is a youth development program that invests youth in citizenship, and learning opportunities. Youth volunteers act as jurors, bailiffs, clerks, defense and prosecuting attorneys, and determine the sentence for juvenile offenders referred by schools, police and juvenile probation. Sentences require community service, restitution, apologies or other learning opportunities. Teen Court emphasizes positive youth development.
Cases will be referred to the program by juvenile probation officers based on the offense. This program will allow additional alternatives for teen offenders.
“Establishing a Teen Court has been a long-time dream of mine,” said Kosciusko Cares Director Marsha Carey. “After reading about the effectiveness of the Teen Court process several years ago and working with youth in various programs, I recognized the way in which Teen Court can play a significant role in the lives of youth and the community.”
Kosciusko County Superior Court 1 Judge David Cates encouraged the development of Teen Court and conducted the swearing-in ceremony. “Juvenile case filings in my court are up about 25 percent since I took office about three years ago,” said Cates. “We need ways to intervene early on … we need different chances to intervene earlier.”
Seven students from Warsaw, Triton and Wawasee have participated in training and mock hearing practice to participate in the Teen Court program. The student members include Rosalie Garro, Wawasee; Lesley Tayagua, Wawasee; Haley Carson, Triton; Sydney Stotler, Triton; Kaylee Denney, Warsaw; Grace Miller, Warsaw; and Meredith Phipps, Warsaw.
Many community members were present at the ceremony and supported the programs development including Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton and Juvenile Probation Officers Dana Bailey and Kara Shively. Local defense attorney John Barrett will serve as the Teen Court Judge during upcoming hearings. Barbara Hatfield will act as the adult volunteer and help with Teen Court hearings.