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Teen Court system can be real benefit to Harrison Co.

Chief Circuit Court Judge John Marks and probation officer Stacey Claxton are spearheading an effort to develop a teen court system in Harrison County. Juveniles who are accused of committing non-violent crimes may choose to be prosecuted, defended and judged by their own peers.

A new state law allows counties to offer the teen court system as an alternative to going through the regular juvenile justice system. We feel that the program can be beneficial not only to the accused, but also for the individuals who participate in the system.

Community involvement is essential to the success of the program, while also creating less paperwork for authorities. Citizens who take an active role in the system are able to illustrate to the juvenile that they are responsible for their own actions and also accountable to the community in which they live. It also gives citizens an opportunity to see and understand how the juvenile system operates.

In order to participate, the accused, as well as their parents, their probation officer and a judge, must all agree on the youth's participation in the system. The accused will have no record if they complete the program successfully.

If operated properly, we feel that the teen court system can help to turn the life of a juvenile offender around. Being sentenced by a jury of their peers will let the accused realize that his peers do not agree with their actions.

We applaud the efforts of Judge Marks and Stacey Compton in getting the program off the ground and feel that it will be a real benefit to Harrison County.

Steve Morris

Telegram Editorial Board member

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