Peer Jury

Overview
The Peer Jury program is an innovative, alternative tool used to divert non-violent, first-time juvenile offenders from formal court action. Operating on the philosophy that it is better to prevent crime than to punish it, police youth officers have several options in juvenile cases to hold them accountable for their actions. Peer Jury is a positive approach to juvenile crime that often has a greater impact on the juvenile offender than court. Communities that have established peer juries have seen a 95% success rate of completion by the teen offenders.

How It Works
Offenders can avoid formal court convictions by choosing to participate in the Peer Jury program and agreeing to comply with the sentence imposed by the jury of their peers. Prior to appearing before the Peer Jury, the defendant and their parent must agree to a statement of guilt. A police youth officer then reads the charges. A panel of teenage jurors then discusses the charges with the offender. The panel then deliberates on an appropriate disposition based on the severity of the charges and the attitude of the offender. A discharge hearing is held after a period of time to ensure that the offender successfully completed the jury’s requirements.

Misdemeanors and Status offenses are the only cases heard by Peer Jury. Typical cases include retail theft, criminal damage to property, and curfew. Frequently offenders are assigned community service work (typically ranging from eight to thirty hours) and must complete a letter of apology.

The Jurors
A goal of the program is to choose high school age volunteers from the community who represent diverse backgrounds to be peer jurors. They must be persons of character, mature and trustworthy. They must be recommended by members of their school and the community. Once selected, they participate in a training program designed to give them a background in juvenile law. They learn how to ask appropriate questions, arrive at appropriate solutions, and maintain strict confidentiality about the defendant. Once their service with the Elmhurst Peer Jury has come to an end, each juror is recognized by members of the City government at a ceremony.

Peer Jury is a community based solution to juvenile crime that works!