About Youth Court

Tennessee Youth Court Program Functions

The primary function of Tennessee Youth Court programs is to determine a fair and restorative disposition for the youth respondent.

  • According to the National Youth Court Database:
    • 93% of youth court programs in the U.S. require the offender to admit guilt prior to participating in youth court.
    • In the 7% of youth court programs that allow youth to plead "not guilty," if a youth chooses to plead "not guilty," the teen/youth court conducts a hearing to determine guilt or innocence. If the defendant is found "guilty," then the youth court gives an appropriate disposition.

Youth Court Program Models

The four primary youth court program models are the Adult Judge, Youth Judge, Peer Jury, and Youth Tribunal Models.

  • According to the National Youth Court Database:
    • The Adult Judge Model is used by approximately 53% of youth courts.
    • The Peer Jury Model is used by approximately 31% of youth courts.
    • The Youth Judge Model is used by approximately 18% of youth courts.
    • The Youth Tribunal Model is used by approximately 10% of youth courts.

The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) says that regardless of the model used, the primary function of most teen courts is to determine a fair and appropriate sentence or disposition for a youth who has already admitted to the charge (Butts, Buck, and Coggeshall 2002).

Training

The young people who volunteer with youth courts are trained by members of their community - the juvenile court judge, attorneys, licensed counselors, teachers, police officers and civic leaders. They learn how courts are structured, proper courtroom behavior and rules, how to prepare for a case, how to question a witness, and how to determine a fair disposition.

Youth Court Program Operations

Agencies operating and administering youth court programs include juvenile courts, juvenile probation departments, law enforcement, schools, and private nonprofit organizations.

  • According to the National Youth Court Database:
    • Approximately 42% of youth court programs in operation are juvenile justice system-based programs.
    • Approximately 22% of youth court programs are community-based and are incorporated as, or operated by, private nonprofit organizations.
    • Approximately 36% of youth court programs are school-based.