ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar) – A chance for local teenagers to right their wrongs and learn from their mistakes.
The cases that Teen Court handles are limited to class C misdemeanors like traffic violations. Some teens who went through the program even come back as volunteers.
We spoke with the court coordinator for Odessa Teen Court, Rebecca Grisham and she says that teens can ask the county or city judge if they would rather do Teen Court instead of other consequences.
“Once approved, the very first thing they do is get sentenced. We hold our Teen Court sentencing at the Ector County courthouse in the actual courtroom which is really the cornerstone of our program.”
If all requirements are met, crimes that would normally stay on the teen’s record are gone for good.
President of the Teen Court board, Judge Christopher Clark had a full-circle experience with Teen Court. From being a young person that was once on the other side of the bench to now serving as a Judge he’s been able to use his personal experience to prevent others from making some decisions he made at a young age.
“When you’re sitting there and you’re having to explain yourself and what you did and there’s a group of six of your own age people sitting in the jury box who are going to be deciding what is going to be happening to you punishment wise I think that brings it to an entirely different level for the kids,” says Clark
The teens that are on the jury that decide the sentence of the defendant, we’re once defendants themselves. The sentence includes jury duty and community service hours.
“All of the community service hours have to be done at a non-profit. Our teens can choose to do their hours at any local non-profit. We have a lot that we partner with like Jesus House, the Crosses Center, Meals on Wheels, and different agencies. ” says Grisham.
Teen Court has recently partnered with Keep Odessa Beautiful and has adopted lots all over town.
“One Saturday a month we all get together as a group, we go out and clean up a big lot and it helps the kids get their hours completed.”
The main thing that Grisham and Clark hope teens gain from participating in Teen Court is to learn from their mistakes.