Lorenn Walker, Keyria Rodgers and Mark Umbreit (Hawai’i Friends of Restorative Justice, Macon County Teen Justice Program and University of Minnesota – St. Paul, School of Social Work, Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking) have posted What Is Restorative About Teen Court? (Internet Journal of Restorative Justice, Special Issue Restorative Justice and Complex Crimes) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Teen court, also called youth, peer, or student court, is a diversion program used primarily in the United States, but also in at least ten other countries, for juveniles who have committed minor crimes. The sentences imposed on juvenile offenders may include restitution and mandatory jury duty in other teen court cases. Many teen courts claim to apply restorative justice. The American Bar Association, the National Association of Youth Courts, and academics have claimed teen court is a restorative program. This study randomly reviewed 164 teen court websites for American programs and found 32 claimed to be restorative. The study applied the teen court process to criteria for restorative programs established by Eglash (1977), Christie (1977) and Zehr (2015), which determined teen court is not restorative. Teen court is an autocratic and adversarial process used primarily for determining punishment. Teen courts claim that they are restorative because youth take accountability by admitting guilt and choosing to participate in the program, which is true for all juveniles pleading guilty in traditional juvenile courts. The paper explores how teen court programs can be restructured into restorative justice programs looking at two former teen court directors who turned their programs into restorative ones.