Juveniles Charged with Misdemeanors can be Tried, Represented, & Sentenced by Their Peers.
by Bailey Shaffer
Did you know a person between the ages of 12 and 18 can pass a bar exam, be on a jury, and participate in court cases? I did, because of a unique program called Trial By Peers. Trial By Peers is an innovative diversion program used as an alternative for first time and some second time juvenile offenders. This program allows juveniles charged with misdemeanors to be tried, rep- resented, and sentenced by their peers, and other teens. The teen participants in this program are able to learn how the legal system works. They get to be involved with judges, lawyers, and other legal authorities. To join this program I filled out an application, took the sum- mer course classes, and then com- pleted and passed a “Bar Exam,” suited for the young volunteers. It was a great experience, and an amazing program, that I am proud to say I am apart of! My peers are also, including Arielle Marvian. I asked her some questions about her experience with Trial By Peers:
Q: When did you enter the program
A: I began with the summer course in 2009. This will be my 4th year in the program.
Q: What made you decide to participate in the program?
A: I’ve always had an interest in the law. When my 8th grade teacher told me about the program, I was very excited. I thought joining the program would be a great way to learn more about the law, develop my speaking abilities, and allow me to participate in something that was unique to the community.
Q: What are some of the things you have learned while in the program?
A: I’ve learned to better appreciate the law and have gained an understanding of the due pro- cess system. I’ve learned how to represent a client, how to give to others. My learning opportunities inside and outside the courtroom have been endless, an effective opening statement, how to argue a point; I have also become a better speaker and gained a sense of professionalism in how to communicate with others.
Q: In what ways have you seen the program change other people?
A: Many kids have made mistakes in their lives that have sent them to the program. These kids aren’t bad kids, they just need some direction. They have shown a small piece of what the criminal justice system has to offer. Most of these kids have learned from their mistakes and are better for it. Some have even joined the program. As other people in this program and I agree, Trial By Peers is a life changing opportunity that offers an abundance of knowledge. I would recommend any teens interested in law, public speaking, or people with free time to join.
To volunteer or donate to this non-profit organization, please go to http://www.trialbypeers.org/