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Monday November 20th 2017

Teen Court of Lawton: A Second Chance for First Offenders

Remember what it was like to be a teenager? The peer pressure, being easily influenced– when you knew everything and adults knew nothing at all? Some mistakes and choices haunt you for a lifetime. When you’re under 18 you’re considered a juvenile. However, once you turn 18 you are considered an adult and charges against you never go away.

There is a first line of defense that is available at the onset of the problem. This remedy comes from Teen Court.

The mission of youth court is to reduce crime and incarceration rates by proactively advancing the global expansion of local youth justice and juvenile justice voluntary diversion programs. These programs go by names like youth court, teen court, peer court, student court, youth peer jury and youth peer panel.

 

Lawton Teen Court’s mission is to reduce the number of youthful offenders in the court system by both providing educational programs to prevent a crime from happening and facilitating alternative adjudication by youthful non-violent offenders.

“Our goal is to reduce teenage misdemeanor offenses, and increase the importance of being a good, productive citizen in society,” says Marcia Frazier, Executive Director of Teen Court. “Our case load consists of assault & battery, theft, misdemeanor drug and alcohol related offenses committed by first time offenders.”

Teen Court has expanded their program to target at-risk youth who have been suspended from school for substance use and fighting. More than 800 juveniles annually are educated on conflict resolution/anger management, substance abuse and “faulty thinking” , the kind of thinking that gets us all in trouble, ie. Speeding, etc.

Teen Court is made up of teenage and adult judges who decide the sentences for juvenile offenders who plead guilty and have chosen to appear before their peers in exchange for formal charges not being filed.

“We teach them the seriousness of their offenses,” Marcia says. “When children are picked up for possession while being under the influence, they only get charged with possession because they are juveniles. But, they were driving, behind the wheel, while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.” she continues. “Anyone behind the wheel while under the influence is dangerous, and a teen behind the wheel under the influence is downright scary, they need to be held accountable.”

 

Many children feel like they are not heard and they stop talking to and trusting in adults.

 

“They come angry. They’re angry because mom and dad work hard and they still need.” Ms. Frazier goes on to say, “They need guidance and love. We have to establish a rapport in order to get them to open up. I have a passion to help and be here for the children. Some of the stories are hard to hear. It is my faith that has gotten me through and continues to do so.”

 

Yes, Teen Court is a program for first time offenders, but the real program is to help the children be productive members of society. Because of this, one of Teen Court’s goals is to branch out into Conflict Resolution & Anger Management.

 

It is tough growing up. Our youth have it hard, and peer pressure can be unbearable, but with the right mentoring they can withstand the adversity. We must instill in our youth the ideas of positivity, honor, dignity, excellence, and above all acceptance of themselves and others.

 

Teen Court is always looking for new volunteers. If you have a teen age 13-18 who would like to help make a difference in our community. Contact:

Marcia Frazier
814 C Avenue
Lawton, Ok. 73501
580-250-1466

 

Website: teencourtOk.com
Facebook: teencourtok