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Conference on April 21 Focuses on Expanding Teen Courts in Md.

SOURCE: Maryland State Bar Association

Proponents of Teen Courts say their interventions are saving youthful offenders from "a life of hardened crime."
One of out every 100 Americans is now in prison. The Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project reports over 2.3 million adults were incarcerated at the beginning of 2008, and many of these inmates started as juvenile delinquents. In Maryland, volunteer lawyers are working with juvenile offenders to divert them from a life of crime. In the last ten years they have rescued over 6500 youth offenders from the juvenile justice system through Maryland’s 10 local Teen Courts, and now these volunteer lawyers and judges want to go statewide to help juvenile offenders in every county.

On April 21, at a special Law Day Conference, the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) is initiating a statewide push to expand Teen Court so juvenile offenders in every county have access to this juvenile justice alternative. Teen Court, a public service project supported by MSBA volunteer lawyers and judges, is an early intervention program that diverts non-violent offenders, aged 11-17, from the juvenile justice system. Proponents of the Teen Courts say their interventions are saving these youthful offenders from "a life of hardened crime."

Teen Courts currently exist in 10 Maryland jurisdictions: Anne Arundel, Caroline, Charles, Kent, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s and Talbot Counties and Baltimore City.

MSBA will launch its expansion effort on April 21 at its Teen Court Law Day Conference. Volunteer lawyers and judges will join high school students and teachers at the Sheppard Pratt Conference Center, 9 AM - 3 PM, to address juvenile delinquency issues in their local communities by establishing Teen Courts.

Highlights of this event include viewing a DVD of an actual Teen Court hearing, the enactment of a live mock trial hearing in action and a keynote address by Maryland’s Chief Judge, Robert M. Bell.

For more information, visit the MSBA website.

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This story was published on April 2, 2008.