Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Angela Corey dumps Teen Court

I guess Angela Corey doesn’t want to play a part in Mayor Peyton’s Jacksonville Journey and help our troubled youth – she has dumped the Teen Court program from the SAO.  That’s too bad.  Teen Court is just the kind of program that the Jacksonvile Journey sought to help decrease the crime rate among our youth. 

In fact, just three years ago, the SAO and Judge Donald Moran, argued that the program should be moved from an independent non-profit board to either the State Attorney or the Court.  The SAO won the competition based on the assertion that the program fit in well with other prevention programs within the SAO and could be run more efficiently with less money.  Now, Corey has fired 8 of the SAO staff involved in the program and asked the Court Administrator to take over the program.  Fortunately for our youth, the Duval County Court Administrator,  Joe Stelma, is picking up responsibility for the program.  I’m not sure who is picking up the program in Clay or Nassau Counties, however.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Teen Court, here is some info on the program from the State Attorney’s Teen Court webage:

Teen Court is a diversion program specifically designated for first-time, misdemeanor offenders between the ages of 10 and 17. It gives these youthful offenders a second chance, yet holds them accountable for their actions. The program directs cases away from juvenile court and provides a forum for defendants (who have admitted guilt) to explain their involvement in the offense. The youthful law violator must stand before a jury of his/her peers, plead guilty and accept whatever sanctions the jury imposes. Specially trained teenagers fulfill the roles of prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, bailiff, and jury member. The only adult in the courtroom is the judge, who is a practicing attorney or judge that approves the sentence. The defendant along with their parent/guardian signs a contract agreeing to carry out the imposed sentence.


If the defendant successfully completes all of the imposed sanctions, adjudication will be withheld. Thus, there will be no conviction on the juvenile’s record. The average length of time for sentence completion is four to six weeks. The defendant will receive three mandatory sanctions, which include participation in jury duty three to six times, participation in peer circle three to six times, and between eight and thirty-five hours of community service. Some of the optional sanctions that the jury may impose include a tour of the jail, writing an apology letter to the victim, writing an essay, no association with co-defendant, or a curfew.


Teen Court is based on the philosophy that a youthful law violator is less likely to continue to be an offender when a jury of his/her peers decides punishment. Teen Court attempts to interrupt developing patterns of criminal behavior by promoting feelings of self-esteem, motivation for self-improvement and development of a healthy attitude toward authority. Teen Court challenges offenders, as well as the volunteer teens, to perform at their highest level of ability, placing a high priority on educating young people about responsibility and consequences for their actions.  Considerable expense is spared the community due to the utilization of teens and adults volunteering their time.


A bill will be introduced into City Council on Tuesday night to be heard as an emergency.   Ten full-time employees must be processed and transferred so that the Teen Court program can be transferred seamlessly, and be up and running in the Court Administrator’s Office on Januay 1, 2009, Corey’s first official day on the job.  


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