Sampson County 4-H is giving teenagers an opportunity to learn more about the criminal justice system.
A training session for Sampson County Teen Court is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Pizza Inn, 1103 Sunset Ave., Clinton. The 4-H program associated with Sampson Cooperative Extension is a preventive tool for youths who’ve had brushes with the law. Offenders ages 10 to 17 are placed before a court system of their peers.
“It gives young people who have first time misdemeanor offenses an opportunity to avoid going into the actual juvenile court system,” said Danelle Graham, Teen Court Coordinator.
Some offenses include simple affray, simple assault, breaking and entering, disorderly conduct, truancy and property damage. Volunteers, ages 13 and older, are needed to serve in jury-like roles for the program. After listening carefully to evidence presented and upon deliberation, jurors may choose to sentence offenders to one or more sanctions. Some of them include community service, essay writing, a verbal or written apology or tutoring.
Training sessions for volunteers are usually held about three or four times a year. Upcoming sessions may occur in the spring or summer. During the process, participants learn about the same sanctions that they would receive in a regular juvenile court system. Graham said the motto “Giving teens a second chance.”
Referrals to help youths receive a second chance may come through a school resource officer, parent and court officials. Later appointments are made with the Sampson County 4-H Teen Court staff.
In addition to helping teens avoid the court system, Graham said it is also saving taxpayers’ dollars.
“By them coming through this program, taxpayers are not having to pay for attorneys and things like that,” she said. “It’s a win-win pretty much for everybody.”
Applications for volunteers may be completed at the training or picked up at the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Office, 55 Agriculture Place, Clinton. For more information contact Graham at 910-592-7161.