Colorado Springs Teen Court, Inc. was founded in 1994 by a group of El Paso County Bar Auxiliary volunteers working in conjunction with the El Paso County Bar Association, District and Municipal Court Judges and School District 11 to address the impact of juvenile crime in the Pikes Peak region. It was the view of the organizers that since the traditional court system was able to devote only limited time to young, first-time offenders – many of whom received suspended sentences – these juveniles failed to appreciate the harm their actions caused their victims, the community and themselves and would subsequently re-offend.
In response, the Teen Court model was developed to provide alternative, youth-centered sentencing options in order to repair the damage caused by current offenses and deter future criminal behavior. In Teen Court, juvenile defendants are literally judged by a jury of their adolescent peers. Through creative sentences that promote self-esteem and encourage positive life choices, former defendants are more likely to resist future opportunities to re-offend in favor of building a more promising and productive life for themselves. During the most recent data collection period, the recidivism rate of former Teen Court defendants was a remarkable 7%.
While many forms of juvenile crime have declined over the past two decades, the incidence of first-time juvenile arrests for shoplifting, simple assaults and drug violations – crimes that typically fall within Teen Court eligibility parameters – continue to increase.
Teen Court currently receives referrals for qualifying cases within the jurisdiction of the City of Colorado Springs. Although it works in tandem with the Municipal Court system, Colorado Springs Teen Court remains a locally-based, independent, private nonprofit that relies on community support to sustain its programs. Since its inception, Teen Court has served more than 6,500 young offenders.