About a year ago, Sergeant Scott Denham, who is Lane County Sheriff Office’s contract supervisor for Creswell, presented to the city council a suggestion for Peer Court to be organized here in town. The court would be organized to try cases for juveniles ages 12 to 17. It is an alternative court within the criminal justice system for juveniles who commit misdemeanors or violations. Juveniles can be referred to Peer Court by the Municipal Court of Youth Services, local school or police officers.
After admitting their guilt, the offender can be accepted into Peer Court, which is made up of volunteer middle and high school students. After reviewing the facts of the case each jury recommends a sentence that is appropriate for the crime and circumstances.
After sentencing, the Peer Court coordinator monitors each case to ensure that the defendant complies with the sentence. Once the sentence has been completed, the defendant may make an application to the Circuit Court to have their case/record expunged. Juveniles who fail to comply with the sentencing are referred to the County Department of Youth Services.
The juveniles who have their cases sent to Peer Court will be asked to serve on a certain number of Peer Courts themselves as part of the correction procedure. Other forms of punishment decided by Peer Court include letter- or essay-writing and community service. Juveniles that have their cases referred to Peer Court will need to sign a contract agreeing to complete their punishment in a certain amount of time.
Now this is not something suddenly pulled out of a hat; rather, it is being used in other locations with the closest being Cottage Grove. Information received from Cottage Grove shows this court can be very effective in cutting juvenile crime. It appears that when a youngster has to explain their actions to their peers, correction is more effective and complete.
I do not perceive that this would be a costly thing and it should be done now, before school is out. The program should more than pay for itself with the result of less crime. We have a perfect person in our midst that has the knowledge and experience to be the adult coordinator. He is Steve Carmichael. Kids are in a court of their own age, not a bunch of adults. This makes for a more meaningful setting to the accused.
I understand that the city administrator has been considering this program since last July when it was first presented by Sergeant Denham. We don’t need to keep reinventing the wheel. This plan is successful in other cities as shown in Cottage Grove. So I hope the council gives the go-ahead to this program. I believe that action should be taken now to get the Peer Court in operation; otherwise, with school soon to close for the summer, it will be three to six months before we would have Peer Court.