About Peer Court
Youth Peer Court is a program for first time offenders who have committed certain misdemeanors or violations and have no previous record. The youth is held accountable for their law breaking activity through a court system that allows their peer to be their jury and render a constructive sentence. The young offender must be willing to admit to his or her offense and accept the sentence given by their peers.
Youth Peer Court is a volunteer program. Offending youth are given this option in lieu of formal proceedings before a Circuit Court Judge.
The jury is comprised of young volunteers aged 12 to 18 recruited from Jr. High and High Schools throughout the Basin. The volunteer youth receive a mandatory one day training and additional training as they serve on the jury.
Other than a volunteer Judge and a Youth Peer Court Coordinator, the youth effectively run the court. They serve as jurors, bailiffs, case presenters and even peer attorneys.
Why We Use a Peer Court
Due to the volume of serious crimes being committed and the caseload size of Juvenile Department Counselors, first time/minor offenses are often given lesser consequences and experience fewer contacts from Counselors. Quite often offending youth are left with the impression that they are not going to be held accountable for their offense or that their behavior is of no consequence. The first time offender frequently becomes the second and subsequent offender under these conditions.
Youth Peer Court is designed to hold First Time Offenders accountable without overburdening the Juvenile system. Nationally, programs of this type have consistently proven effective in reducing repeat offender rates.
How the Peer Court Works
Referrals for the Youth Peer Court come from the Klamath County Juvenile Department intake process. Youth from throughout the Klamath Basin are eligible for this program. Once a youth has appeared for the mandatory first appearance at court, he/she is given an appointment to meet with the Youth Peer Court Coordinator at the Klamath County Juvenile Department.
The Coordinator discusses the offense with the youth and his/her parent and determines the youth's appropriateness for Youth Peer Court. If the youth is accepted for Youth Peer Court they are summonsed to the next available Youth Peer Court session. Following court, the youth meets once more with the YPC Coordinator to receive the necessary instructions and to discuss fulfilling his/her sentence. The YPC Coordinator then maintains regular contact with the youth to insure completion.