Youth Court Gives Offenders a Second Chance

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(Memphis) First time juvenile offenders in Shelby County are getting a second chance with the help of their peers through Youth Court.

The Shelby County Youth Court program allows for student volunteers at ten Memphis and Shelby County high schools to basically operate a Juvenile Courtroom.

“It’s not just play court. It’s an opportunity for them to learn about the system, to participate actively in it and at the same time carry out a meaningful function within their peer group. We have youth that do the prosecution, they do the defense, they serve as bailiff, and they do the court room clerk.  The only thing they don’t do is on the bench,” said attorney James Sanders who serves as a mentor for the program.

Local attorneys guide the student volunteers in preparing for cases

The defendants are first time juvenile offenders with misdemeanor charges.

Most of the time the defendants will get community service as opposed to entering into the juvenile justice system.

Once the community service is complete, the charge will be dismissed.

“It allows for those who commit minor offenses to avoid getting in the system and at the same time they get to be judged by their peers,” added Sanders.

For the Youth Court volunteers, they get a chance to see what a career in law would look like.

“In my future I want to be an attorney, so this is something that I really love and I put all of my heart into it whenever I get a case,” said Youth Court student volunteer Arielle Townsel from Cordova High School.