Peer Court judges juveniles by juveniles

Through a cooperative directed by Logan City Police, Bear River Health Department and the Cache County Sheriff the Cache Valley Peer Court offers an alternative to the traditional juvenile justice system. Peer Court is for first time youth offenders only. Deputy Marcus Flansburg is School Resource Deputy for the Cache County Sheriff’s office. “When law enforcement personnel are out in the valley dealing with juveniles they often come across a kid who has committed a minor crime and it’s a first time offense. The officer wants the youth to experience some sort of consequence, but sometimes a criminal charge just seems a little excessive.” And that is where the Peer Court becomes an option. “It’s short of sending them to Juvenile Court and it is short of charging them with a criminal offense. “We sit back and let the youth run the court. We have youth that are high school age from all three of the high schools and they run the court. They act as mentors to the youth coming into the court. They sit before the youth and hear their testimony, they do the paperwork, they clerk. “And finally they decide what the consequence will be for the offender.” A youth deciding to come into Peer Court is required to admit guilt before entering. “The youth and their parents will come into the court. We will have our clerk read a summary of why the youth is there. We will give the youth a chance to tell their side of the story then we have them step out into the hall and we talk to their parents to find out what kind of problems they are experiencing with the youth, ask what they think might help their child and explain some of the options for consequences and get their input.” The parents are then invited out into the hall, as well, then the group of Peer Court youth and adult mentors confer and in about 10 minutes come up with what they feel is an appropriate consequence. Once they do as ordered, the criminal charges are dropped. “We then give them four to six weeks to take care of the consequence. If they want to argue they are innocent, then the place to make that argument is in Juvenile Court,” said Flansburg. The Peer Court meets the first, second and fourth Tuesdays of the month to hear cases. The third Tuesday of the month it takes a break.

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