Judging One's Peers: How Teen Court Juries Make Decisions

Nick McRee, The University of Portland

Teen courts are diversion programs for at-risk youth charged with relatively minor offenses. In these programs, non-violent juvenile offenders plead guilty to criminal charges and have peers adjudicate the sentence. Although investigations of these programs typically focus on program effectiveness (i.e., does diversion reduce recidivism risk among offenders), teen courts represent a valuable opportunity to study how juveniles make decisions about the behavior of delinquent peers. This paper reports a study of teen court participants in a rural county of a northwestern state. The data are compiled from two samples: juveniles referred to teen court, and youths recruited to sit in judgement of their peers as teen court jurors. Subjects provided demographic information, self-reports of relationships with parents and peers, personal attitudes, and self-reported delinquent behavior. The analysis considers the characteristics of teen court jurors and offenders, and their association with sentences and post-sentence juror assessments of offender behavior.

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Updated 05/20/2006