The mission of the Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust Youth Development Division is to change the lives of young people by advocating and creating opportunities for youth to develop into responsible citizens.
As Miami-Dade County’s only peer-sanctioning program, Miami-Dade County Teen Court is an alternative sanctioning program for first-time misdemeanor youthful offenders who agree to allow their peers instead of the juvenile justice system determine their sentencing. Through their participation, the program helps decrease juvenile delinquency by interrupting the beginning stages of criminal behavior.
The program has provided youth, volunteers and participants, an opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in a non-traditional judicial process. First-time juvenile misdemeanor offenders (participants) are afforded a sentencing hearing conducted by youth volunteers serving as attorneys, jurors, bailiffs, and clerks.
Some offenses include petit theft, possession of marijuana, disorderly conduct, and trespassing. An adult volunteer, usually an active judge or lawyer, presides as judge over the hearing and a jury of the participant’s peers determines appropriate sanctions.
Once the participants successfully complete program sanctions, they are given the opportunity to have their records expunged. This means that there will be no public record of the offense, thereby providing youth with a second chance.
The program is beneficial to Miami-Dade County. The program:
- Reduces recidivism
- Offers relief to the local juvenile justice system
- Develops a cadre of responsible and knowledgeable citizen
- Encourages collaborative partnerships between youth and the local police departments
Also be sure to check out the official 2012 Teen Court Brochure.
The Youth Entrepreneurship Workshop Series
Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust (MDEAT)’s Teen Court program recently launched a youth entrepreneurship workshop series to help address the high unemployment rate among teens in the County’s Target Urban Areas (TUAs). TUAs are 15 County-designated neighborhoods and two commercial corridors that serve as economic development priority. County economic research revealed that socio-economic conditions in the TUAs lag far behind the rest-of-the-County. This new economic initiative aims help reverse that trend by exposing participants to business principles, young and experienced entrepreneurs, and encourage the creation of micro-businesses.
MDEAT is hopeful that message of empowerment and business resonates with its youth volunteers. The agency created the youth entrepreneurship initiative to give Teen Court participants an optional track on entrepreneurship. The workshop series is an extension of that effort. It is designed to teach the teen volunteers business development skills while fostering the development and growth of micro-businesses among these youth. It will also expose participants to successful Black entrepreneurs to further motivate and reinforce benefits of business ownership. According to the County’s November Labor Market Report, Black residents suffer twice the unemployment rates of their counterparts in other communities. The workshop series aims to decrease that burden.
The youth entrepreneurship workshop series is an on-going seminar that occurs during the second week of each month before Teen Court sessions. The four-part workshop series cover business essentials, business plan creation, business economics, and marketing/salesmanship skills. Various workshops will feature local entrepreneurs and give participants access to helpful resources.
Miami-Dade County Teen Court (M-DCTC) has partnered with Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS). Miami-Dade County Teen Court is a Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust (MDEAT) Initiative, and Miami-Dade County Teen Court’s goal is to help youth stay positively engaged in the public school system and avoid the penal system through providing this new School-Based Referral Process, “Student Court”.
The School-Based Referral component is designed to help empower youth, provide an avenue for schools to address safety issues and create positive learning environments. The program helps students become well-educated citizens; promotes positive peer pressure and fosters character building; fosters critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, and other positive leadership skills among students. This program benefits the school in many ways, such as: improving school safety; discipline options for administration; reduces student’s continuous involvement in school-rule violations.
How to volunteer for Teen Court
Become a youth volunteer; teens can participate as a defense or prosecuting attorney, juror, clerk, and/or a bailiff. It is a beneficial hands-on experience showing the reality of what happens in a courtroom. This volunteer program is magnificent for teens who are interested in careers associated with the judicial system.
Guide our youth by becoming a volunteer and impact their future and our community in a positive manner. Adults can volunteer as court monitors. If proper requirements are met, an adult with a legal background may volunteer as a judge. This rewarding volunteer experience will make a difference in the life of a youth and set an example for them to follow.
Please download the application form and return the application to the MDEAT main office or the Teen Court office.
A Teen Court volunteer shares her experience
What Miami-Dade Country Teen Court has done for me:
I started attending Teen Court at the beginning of my freshman year in high school. It was my first year attending school in Florida, moreover the United States of America. I had no idea how to fit in with American society, much less how to fit into school in America. The idea of conducting community service as a requirement for graduation was foreign to me, it was the moment that I realized having A's and B's on my report card just wasn't enough to do well. I am from Jamaica.
|Miami-Dade County Teen Court was the first community service project I ever took part in, and by far the most significant. After hearing about it from my Legal Studies teacher, Ms. Hansen, my ambition to become an attorney in the future prevented me from passing up the opportunity to attend as all of my classmates did. The promise of being a youth attorney in a real court with real defendants who committed real crimes was like finding gold. Back in the 9th grade, I believed that I had finally achieved my dream career; however after several trials, I came to realize that I was only half way there. I came to realize that Teen Court was a gateway that led to a brighter future not just for me, but also for the defendants who chose to have their crimes heard at this program.|
For youth who break the law for the first time, many come to realize at Teen Court, that it would be their last time. Instead of gaining a record that could jeopardize their entire future; those youth are able to see that Teen Court gives them a second chance- something valuable that others cannot get, and the U.S. court system will not give. Their mistake would be sealed from their record so long as they plead guilty, accept responsibility for their actions, and perform the Teen Court's sanctions. They hear loud and clear that while they enjoy this second chance, if they ever choose to push their luck and break the law again, they will have not one, but two crimes on their official criminal record. Though some of these children do decide to disregard their fortunate chance at Teen Court, most of them do not make that mistake. Most learn and realize the seriousness of their wrong decision and choose the better path. Most are good students who go to school, value their education and go on to live good lives. Some of them even come back to Teen Court to take part in the judicial process.
For me, being able to attend Teen Court not only helped me to experience what it feels like to be an attorney, but also what it feels like to help my peers better their lives.
Teen Court benefits the community because it benefits the youth that live within our community. Because young people are experiencing many changes in their lives, they sometimes make mistakes, and I have seen Teen Court help many resolve those mistakes. I, just like many others, am grateful for my opportunity to have attended, and I am proud to make Miami-Dade County Teen Court my official community service project, as a graduating senior in high school, and as a Miami Herald Silver Knight nominee.
Danielle Robinson 12th grade South Dade Senior High School (Three and half years as a volunteer lawyer)
Teen Court News
Miami-Dade County Teen Court is proud to announce their newsletter, Teen Court News. The newsletter is filled with wonderful heartwarming stories, updates from our community, and National Teen Court information.
Check out the Winter 2014 Issue of Teen Court News.
Mock Trial on Profiling
Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust (MDEAT) hosted the Miami-Dade County Teen Court Mock Trial on Profiling on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreation Complex in Miami Gardens. A reenactment of a crime took place that followed by Teen Mock Trial on Profiling. The evenings’ presiding judge was the honorable Judge Orlando A. Prescott. Students and citizens came out to voice their views on profiling and on local Miami Gardens crime issues.
Teen Court Locations
Mondays (1st, 2nd, and 3rd of each month)
Richard E. Gerstein Building Courthouse Museum
1351 N.W. 12th Street Courtroom 1–3
Miami, Florida 33125
(4th of each month)
Black Police Precinct and and Courthouse Museum
480 N.W. 11th Street
Miami, Florida 33136
South Dade Government Center
10710 S.W. 211th Street
Miami, Florida 33189
North Dade Justice Center
15555 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, Florida 33160
Thursdays (2nd, 3rd, and 4th of each month)
Hialeah City Hall
501 Palm Avenue Third Floor
Hialeah, Florida 33010
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