John J. Wilson, Acting Administrator October 2000

Teen Courts: A Focus on Research

Jeffrey A. Butts and Janeen Buck

This Bulletin was developed as part of the Evaluation of Teen Courts Project conducted by The Urban Institute in Washington, DC, and supported by funds provided to The Urban Institute by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice, under grant number 98-JN-FX-0003.

Points of view or opinions expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of OJJDP or the U.S. Department of Justice nor of The Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.


Jeffrey Butts, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate, and Janeen Buck, Research Associate, are with the Evaluation of Teen Courts Project of The Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center. Dionne Davis helped collect the data presented in this Bulletin. The Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center is directed by Adele Harrell.

Both OJJDP and The Urban Institute gratefully acknowledge the efforts of the many teen courts and youth courts that contributed data for this study and the generous support of Tracy Godwin and the National Youth Court Center (www.youthcourt.net). Their participation made this Bulletin possible.

From the Administrator

Developed as an alternative to the traditional juvenile court system for younger and less serious offenders, teen courts operate on the premise that the judgment of a juvenile offender's peers may have a greater impact than the decisions of adult authority figures.

The teen court concept has gained popularity in recent years as juvenile courts have had to deal with increased numbers of serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders. Its acceptance has been fueled, in part, by positive anecdotal reports from those involved with this peer-centered approach. This Bulletin examines several teen court evaluations, but cautions that we lack the empirical data needed to fully evaluate the effectiveness of this intervention.

In keeping with its commitment to identifying "what works," OJJDP is funding the Evaluation of Teen Courts Project. This Bulletin includes a profile of teen court characteristics and implementation challenges, derived from a national survey of teen courts conducted in the project's first phase. Phase two will consist of a multisite evaluation.

Until the findings of that evaluation are available next year, I hope that communities considering the merits of teen courts will find this Bulletin to be a useful interim guide.

John J. Wilson
Acting Administrator


The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims of Crime.

NCJ 183472

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