Youth court seeks applicants for jury duty — now
The Blount County Youth Court is moving right along. Naming Tina Watts as executive director is one more step to getting the court up and going by October.
Next step? Selecting youth volunteers who will act as peer jurors. About 30 jurors are needed, and the deadline for applying is almost here. The application door shuts on Friday.
Like with the new executive director, the Blount County Youth Court is not looking for cookie-cutter jurors. Like four others in her immediate family, Watts is a college student. What makes her situation atypical is that while Watts is a rising senior at Maryville College, she’s also a mother of six. Four of those six are also attending college.
Her life experience, commitment to youth, communication skills and ability to motivate are cited as reasons for Watt’s selection to be executive director.
Likewise, young people with a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives are being urged to volunteer to serve as jurors who will listen to and evaluate cases in order to formulate solutions for young people in trouble.
The types of offenses eligible to be heard in youth court include juvenile cases involving assault, burglary and theft of property, vandalism, forgery, cruelty to animals, harassment, unauthorized use of a vehicle, disorderly conduct, runaway, violation of curfew, truancy, some traffic offenses and criminal trespass.
The idea is to give youth who’ve run afoul of the law a chance to get their lives back on track before being cast into the standard juvenile justice system. First-time youthful offenders who admit guilt can apply for youth court. If a case is accepted, court costs are avoided and the offense is kept off the youth’s record — if the sentence is performed.
Thirteen youth courts already operate in the state. The program works. Of youth who appeared before traditional juvenile courts in Tennessee, 18 percent committed future offenses. Compare that to the rate of youth re-offending after sentencing by youth courts — under 7 percent.
The Blount County Youth Court — a Legacy project of the Leadership Blount Class of 2013 — is not looking to stack the juries with straight-A students. The plan is to have a cross-section of jurors — including nontraditional leaders.
Applications for youth volunteers willing to serve as peer jurors are being accepted through Friday and are available for download at http://dropcanvas.com 2eu7 or by visiting http://facebook.com . Interested youth should live in Blount County and be enrolled in grades nine through 12.
Juries hearing cases typically take 45 minutes to an hour before coming up with a sentence. If you’re a young Blount Countian interested in applying, you’ve a lot more time to decide to do it — one whole day.