Teen Courts in Talbot County will begin their 14th year of service to the community under the direction of Bob Coleman, Teen Court Coordinator, with their opening court session scheduled on August 27.
Talbot County’s Teen Court program addresses the high risk of problematic behavior among county youth. The program provides early diversion for youth with first-time, minor offenses, often alcohol and tobacco violations. Teen Court provides consequences to reinforce the fact that negative behavior will not be tolerated. It provides opportunities for pro-social activities and social restitution in the community to steer youth away from the streets and delinquent activity, and it provides referrals to services to address substance abuse as well as mental health or educational needs.
Teen Courts are staffed by youth volunteers from Easton, Sts. Peter & Paul, and St. Michaels High Schools who serve in various capacities within the program, trained and acting in the roles of jurors, lawyers, bailiffs, clerks and judges. Most teen courts are sentencing courts in which the offender has already admitted guilt or pled no contest.
The Talbot County Teen Court operates much like a traditional court, holding hearings before a judge and jury with the jury deliberating to determine an appropriate disposition. Court is held in the Talbot County Courthouse.
Often, sentences will involve the defendant’s making restitution to someone harmed or inconvenienced by their actions, or creating an informational awareness project about health, safety, respect, or another topic relevant to the offense. One of the more common sentences is community service. In many jury-based programs it is mandatory that the offender serve on a future Teen Court jury. In some cases, educational workshops are required as part of the sentence, usually in cases involving alcohol or drug charges.
Initial funding for Teen Court was provided by The State of Maryland, through a grant from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. Unfortunately this grant expired December 31, 2009. Talbot Partnership, which serves as the fiscal agent for Teen Court, is looking to find individuals, local businesses, community foundations, service organizations, and the faith community to assist with keeping this important program in place. If you are interested in supporting Teen Court, please contact Talbot Partnership at 410-819-8067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teen Court provides training to 60-70 student volunteers on the judicial system and serves approximately 40-60 first time offenders per year. The program has a very successful track record with a recidivism rate of less than 10%.