A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Knox County students to be sworn in as Teen Court officers this Tuesday in Barbourville

A total of 13 Knox County students who have completed Teen Court training will be sworn in as officers of their local court at a ceremony this Tuesday in Barbourville.

The public is invited to attend the event scheduled for 6 p.m. in the District Courtroom of the Knox County Courthouse at 401 Court Square.

District Court Judge Wendell Lewis “Skip” Hammons Jr. will swear in the students. Judge Hammons and District Court Judge John Paul Chappell serve Laurel and Knox counties and oversee the local Teen Court program.

Teen Court programs operate from September through May to coincide with the school calendar. Although a district judge presides over Teen Court, it is operated almost entirely by teenagers ranging in age from 13 to 17.

“Teen Court uses peer pressure in a positive way for nonviolent juvenile offenders,” said Billy Stover, coordinator for Kentucky Teen Court. “We’ve found that peer pressure in a court of law has a profound impact on a juvenile offender and is very effective at deterring juveniles from committing other crimes.”

The Administrative Office of the Courts started Kentucky Teen Court in 1992. Teen Court has since expanded to 26 counties across Kentucky. More than 15,000 students have participated in the program since its inception.

Teen Court programs are made up of student volunteers who have completed five training sessions in courtroom roles such as prosecutor, defense attorney, court clerk, bailiff and juror. All student volunteers take an oath of confidentiality to protect the privacy of the teen defendants who appear before them.

Teen jurors review the facts of the case and hear testimony before recommending a punishment. Often the juvenile defendant will speak on his or her own behalf and apologize for the crime.

Court designated workers refer teen defendants to Teen Court as part of a diversion agreement. Teen Court sentences have included community service, letters of apology, counseling sessions and Teen Court jury duty.

Teen Court sentences are legally binding and defendants must complete their sentences within six months or face being sent back to District Court.

For more information about Knox County Teen Court, contact coordinator Monica Wilkie at 606-330-2075 or monicawilkie@kycourts.net.

From Knox County Teen Court

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