Cobb County Juvenile Court recently held a swearing-in ceremony for six student volunteers who will serve on Peer Court which is scheduled to begin hearing cases this month.
The students will serve as volunteers for the new court where first-time juvenile offenders will appear before a jury of their peers and, in turn, will be defended and prosecuted by those peers, according to a county statement.
“Peer Court is an important restorative justice program that provides teenage volunteers with positive exposure to the legal system,” said Cobb Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Jeffrey D. Hamby who conducted their swearing-in ceremony. “We are proud to be one of the few courts in the state to offer this innovative, alternative system of justice to the community.”
Student volunteers attend Peer Court Law School where they learn about typical court procedures and receive training with assistance from local attorneys and courthouse personnel.
While they do not determine the guilt or innocence of juvenile offenders, between the ages of 12 and 17, they are able to recommend a constructive sentence such as restitution, community service hours or counseling.
Youth focused and youth driven, Peer Court is made up of high school student volunteers from private schools, home school programs and the Cobb County School District who will receive school credit along with community service hours for their participation.
The only adult in the process is the judge who oversees the court proceedings.
Juvenile defendants in Peer Court also have the opportunity to have their records sealed by participating in the program as jurors.
“Participation as jurors allows offenders to be surrounded by positive peers and offers them a chance to have their voices heard,” Peer Court Coordinator Bridget Jones said. “I am confident Peer Court will reduce recidivism and the amount of cases heard by our judges.”
Information about Peer Court: Coordinator Bridget Jones at Bridget.Jones@CobbCounty.org
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