MANATEE COUNTY, FL (WWSB) - Since 1991, a diversion program for first time teenage offenders has had a positive impact on many. Now, that program is in need of volunteers. It shows teens how the courtroom process works, everything from witness questioning to the code of conduct.
For many counties in the state, first-time juvenile offenders who admit guilt of non-violent misdemeanor offenses may be heard by a jury of their peers, instead of going up in front of a judge.
Teen court supervisor Susan Lockliear says it's the youth volunteers that fill the crucial roles of prosecutor and defending attorneys, not only train them for a career in a courtroom setting, but in life as well. Plus, it saves money.
"I believe it saves the taxpayers quite a bit of money because the cost of a child coming through our program versus going through the juvenile justice system is greatly reduced," said Lockliear. "Just having to get up and prepare a case and think on your feet and question a child in a court room in front of people that they don't know....It's helped tremendously."
Now, teen court is looking for more volunteers to complete a day long training session to be in the program.
The program is also beneficial for the kids being sentenced.
"One of the main components of the sentence is community services, so they are required to perform comm service," said Lockliear.