Teen Court offers young offenders options

Filed under: One on One |

* Name: Patricia Ezell

* Organization: Colorado Springs Teen Court, Inc. (a non-profit organization)

* Position: Director

* Hometown: Dallas, Texas

* How long have you lived in Colorado Springs: Since 1974

* Education: Bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Texas.

* A few words about your company: Teen Court is the sentencing option of choice for first-time youth offenders in the Colorado Springs community. After pleading guilty to a misdemeanor offense in Municipal Court, juveniles, ages 11 to 18, come to Teen Court to be sentenced by their peers. The peer judgment, real consequences and a sentences based on the principals of Restorative Justice have a very positive affect on these juveniles. Because the regular court system is overburdened, there are few or seemingly no consequences for a young person the first time he or she commits an offense. This sends a juvenile away from the court with a lack of respect for the legal system resulting in 50 percent to 60 percent committing a second offense. In Teen Court, not only do their peers tell the defendant that his or her crime is “not OK,” but the defendant is given significant consequences that make him or her stop and think when the next temptation to commit an offense appears in their life. The result is that less than 20 percent of the teens break the law a second time.

* Recent accomplishments: Since I became the director of Teen Court a year ago, the number of juveniles who have participated in the program has increased by 44 percent.

* Biggest career break: Acceptance into the Community Resource Center’s Colorado Nonprofit Leadership & Management Program of 2003. This year-long program gave me the knowledge and confidence to build Teen Court into a strong and stable nonprofit organization that will service the youth of our community for years to come.

* The toughest part of your job: The fact that there is never any “down time.” I taught middle school for 15 years and enjoyed having summer off. Now, as soon as I finish one project there is another challenge to dive into.

* Someone you admire: Dot Donley, who passed away a few years ago. She was the administrative assistant to the head minister of First Presbyterian church, a devoted wife and mother, community leader and a woman of grace, beauty and love. I will always look up to her and hope to share some of her qualities.

* About your family: I have a son, Scott, and a daughter, Shannon, who are my greatest blessings and my favorite companions. They both participated in the first Teen Court trial that was held in 1994. Shannon went on to be an outstanding prosecuting student attorney for the program.

* Something else you’d like to accomplish: I have always wanted to own and run a ropes course for teenagers. It is a joy to see the smile on the face of a young person who has just crossed a log suspended 30 feet in the air. It is a great confidence builder.

* How your business will change in the next decade: Teen Court’s capacity to work with the juveniles of our community is increasing each year. As our financial base grows, so does the number of first-time youth offenders that can participate in the program. The future of our community is our youth.

* What book are you currently reading? “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel

* What is the one thing you would change about Colorado Springs? I would like to see our citizens learn to not vote “no.” We need to be willing to pay for the infrastructure and the needs of this wonderful community.