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Teen Courts: Focus on Research

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2000
16 pages
The report describes the characteristics of teen courts and the operational and managerial challenges they experience, based on a national survey of teen courts and youth courts and a review of the evaluation literature.
The survey received responses from 335 of the nearly 500 teen court programs to which the questionnaires were mailed. The survey sought information from all the teen courts believed to exist as of the end of 1998. Thirteen percent of the teen courts had been in operation less than 1 year, 42 percent had been in operation for only 1-3 years, and 67 percent had been in operation for less than 5 years. Most teen courts were affiliated with the traditional justice system, 37 percent were affiliated with the courts, and 12 percent were affiliated with law enforcement. Private agencies operated 25 percent of the courts. Fifty-nine percent handled 100 or fewer cases annually; 13 percent handled more than 300 cases per year. Fifty-nine percent of the teen courts received no private funding. The courts usually handle relatively young offenders with no prior arrests. Problems commonly reported by teen courts included funding uncertainties, keeping teen volunteers, insufficient referrals, delays between the offense and the referral, difficult coordination with other agencies, and insufficient youth and adult volunteers. Few studies have tried to measure the effect of teen courts on youth; even the best studies have not yet produced the sort of data necessary to deem a program effective. Findings of the Evaluation of Teen Courts Project sponsored by the office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention will be available in 2001. Figures, tables, and footnote

Date Published: October 1, 2000