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Diverting Youth and Repairing Harm: An Evaluation of San Diego Teen Court, Final Court

NCJ Number
Liz Doroski; Cynthia Burke, Ph.D.
Date Published
April 2007
56 pages
Findings, recommendations, and methodology are presented for an evaluation of the San Diego Teen Court (California), which is a diversion option for youth between ages 13 and 17 who have committed a first-time misdemeanor or status offense; the court uses peers as prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and jury.
The evaluation found that clients' self-reported behavior before and after participation in the teen court did not change significantly after program completion; however, almost all of the parents/guardians reported positive change in their child's behavior, and only three participants (6 percent) had been arrested within 1 year of completing the program. The teen court also apparently provided a positive learning experience for the youth volunteers who conducted court proceedings. They gained significant knowledge of court operations, and almost 9 in 10 indicated a willingness to participate again. The evaluation randomized 300 offenders (150 to receive teen court services and 150 to be a comparison group processed through the traditional juvenile justice system; however, this initial design could not be sustained due to a considerable decrease in referrals, so the evaluation was conducted without a comparison group. Fifty-three clients participated in the study. A pre-participation and post-participation research design was used. It relied on self-reported behavioral change by clients and their parents/caregivers, as well as arrest data from official records. 5 tables and 9 figures