Teen Courts — Do They Work and Why?

cover_buttsortiz_shadowJeffrey A. Butts and Jennifer Ortiz (2011). Teen courts — Do they work and why? New York State Bar Association Journal, 83(1): 18-21.

Despite their popularity, there are many unanswered questions about the effectiveness of teen courts. The overall impression one gets from the evaluation literature is positive, but researchers have yet to identify exactly why teen courts work. Most important, studies have not yet investigated whether some teen court models are better than others. There is sufficient research evidence to believe that teen courts have meaningful benefits for youth participants, their families and communities, yet many questions remain. One particularly vital question overlooked by researchers is whether communities are better served by teen courts that rely on youth rather than adults to manage the court process.  As New York moves further ahead with its teen courts, hopefully this question will be resolved by rigorous evaluation research, while will additionally serve the larger interests of teen courts throughout the nation.