The Sudden Popularity of Teen Courts

Research Report

The Sudden Popularity of Teen Courts

Abstract

As of 2002, more than 800 teen courts were in operation across the United States, up from fewer than 100 programs just a decade ago. The rapid spread of teen courts underscores their popularity with the public, elected officials, schools, and parents. According to some advocates, teen courts are inexpensive to operate, reduce recidivism by young offenders, and promote increased knowledge of the law and respect for legal authorities. Skeptics, on the other hand, fear the possible net-widening effect of teen courts and resent the illusion of legal authority that surrounds teen court proceedings. Whether teen courts live up to the claims of their advocates is unknown. Research about teen courts is limited, although some studies offer encouraging results. This article examines how teen courts work and what current research tells us about the benefits and drawbacks of these youth-run programs.

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