Colorado Springs Teen Court Inc. celebrated “A Decade of Second Chances” on Oct. 19 with a breakfast at the Antlers Hilton.
The organization was founded in 1994 and has served more than 2,000 juveniles, ages 11-18, and their families. The program provides an alternative to the regular Municipal Court sentencing for first-time misdemeanor offenders.
Sentencing in Teen Court is based on the philosophy of Restorative Justice. All sentences include community services and jury duty in a subsequent Teen Court trial. Many sentences include apology letters, essays, classes or workshops to help the defendants develop good decision making skills, improve their ability to work through conflicts or anger, and realize the necessity of education to achieve an acceptable lifestyle as an adult.
Keynote speaker Colorado Springs Police Chief Luis Velez echoed the need for and the importance of education. He told those in attendance about how he had dropped out of high school and was drafted into the military and sent to Vietnam. Velez said it was while serving in Vietnam that he realized that he needed to take advantage of a second chance and earn a high school equivalency degree. But he didn’t stop there. Velez has a bachelor’s degree in sociology, a master’s degree in public administration and a doctoral degree in management.
Velez also reinforced Teen Court’s mission, which is to use the positive power of peer influence to provide early intervention using unique sentencing alternatives designed specifically for youth offenders, in an effort to stop criminal behavior at its earliest stage.