Kodiak’s Teen Court is recruiting new members these days. Classes are starting up early next month and those interested could become attorneys by mid January.
The organization, which is youth-run with the help of adult advisers, provides legal services to teens, with more constructive punishments than they might face in an actual court system. Kodiak High School Senior Olivia Rivera is the board president for teen court and said they typically try to find punishments that fit the individual, rather than the crime.
“Instead of the punitive justice system, which is what regular courts use, we use restorative justice – which instead of punishment fits the crime we select certain community work service projects or assignments that will fit the person, like the defendant themselves.”
Teen court only handles minor offenses – things like minor in possession, or MIP, small theft and controlled substances.
There are roughly 50 members in teen court, and now anyone interested can enroll in the three month long course to become an attorney. The only cost is in time – which involves two hours, twice a week.
Ariel Frost is a graduating junior and Bar president for teen court. She said the class is a big time commitment, but it will help students retain more information in the long run.
“The reason we do it this way is because it seems like when you do it over a longer process in shorter periods, it’s easier to have everything that you want to get in and keep everything organized – rather than cram it all in at once. And we do a lot of fun things with the classes – it’s easier to schedule days and times to bring people in and make it more interactive.”
Andrew Ott is the legal adviser for teen court and teaches the course. He said students can earn one full social studies credit by completing all of the classes. He said it’s geared toward helping students prepare for the bar exam, which will probably be taken in mid January.
“And then they are attorneys. And they start off and they can work with these two fine young people or other people in the group to get their hands dirty, if you will, and learn how to be a good attorney.”
Rivera said it is an exciting year to join teen court because Kodiak is hosting the annual youth court conference.
“All the youth courts in the state of Alaska will be coming to Kodiak in March. They’ll be coming down here and we’ll be having lost of lectures from different speakers, different parts of teen court and that’s really, really fun. Last year a bunch of us traveled over to Ketchikan for the same thing and it’s just so fun – you meet a lot of people, you learn a lot of new things. Just how other teen courts work and how they approach the restorative justice model. It’s just really, really interesting.”
Classes start on November 3, and will be held on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.