by Saul Cardenas
Fourteen years old. In California, New York, and Florida, this is the age when a juvenile can be tried as an adult. According to the Office of Judicial Justice and Delinquency Prevention, there were 846,130 juvenile arrests in 2016 across the nation. The majority would go straight to a criminal court to be tried as adults, never receiving a second chance. However, those that do get that second chance participate in a restorative justice programs.
Restorative Justice Programs are courses, usually implemented through a school environment, that provide an at risk juvenile a second chance to make reparations. These programs focus on rehabilitation and teaching rather than straight punishment for breaking the law. More specifically, the programs have the student participate in dialogue with those affected by their actions, attend counseling, or do community service. Whatever the action may be, they all have the same goal – helping the student learn from their mistakes.
One of the most prominent restorative justice programs at South Gate High School is Teen Court. Our Teen Court program is sponsored by Ms. Conde in room B-37 on Wednesdays. The primary function of Teen Court is to provide an alternative to a judicial court hearing where the defendant can be judged by a jury of fellow students. The jury provides a verdict and recommendations for the type of discipline the defendant must adhere to, such as community service. Teen Court hearings are presided over by actual judges.
Whether it is Teen Court or another program, all restorative justice programs share the goal of reducing the amount of juveniles incarcerated.