Manatee County Teen Court/Teen Court Too celebrates 30 years

This month, the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Manatee County Teen Court/Teen Court Too program.

The Manatee County Clerk’s office implemented the Teen Court/Teen Court Too program as an alternative to the juvenile justice system.

Before Teen Court, first-time youth offenders charged with a crime were summoned to appear for arraignment before a circuit court judge assigned to the Juvenile Division. The process was lengthy and expensive.

Teen Court/Teen Court Too is a diversionary program designed to stop youthful delinquent behavior before a pattern is established. The program allows first-time youth offenders, ages 10-17, a second chance while holding them accountable for their actions. 

In Teen Court, a youth is judged by a jury of their peers – literally. Teen Court is comprised of youth volunteers who serve in court roles such as the defense attorney, prosecuting attorney, clerk, bailiff, and juror.

Teen Court Supervisor Yantee Hines Sr. says, “[The youth] are harder on each other than an adult would be. They know when a kid is lying, telling the truth, and when they are sincere. This is what makes Teen Court great.”

Attorney and Teen Court volunteer Chris Melody says, “Teen Court is an invaluable program. The program gives kids a chance to get their lives back on track.” She recalls a teen during one of her first Tuesday sessions saying to her, “I’m not a bad kid just because I’m here.”

Since 1991, the Teen Court/Teen Court Too program has kept over 18,000 cases out of the juvenile court system, saving Manatee County taxpayers over $54 million.

Additionally, the Teen Court/Teen Court Too program offers youth rewarding volunteer opportunities. Youth who volunteer participate in court roles which provide insight into how the criminal justice system operates.

Clerk Angel Colonneso says, “The Teen Court/Teen Court Too program is an asset to the community. The Manatee County Clerk’s office is proud to oversee the program, and will continue to oversee the program indefinitely.”

For more information about the Manatee County Teen Court/Teen Court Too program, visit the Manatee County Clerk’s website at www.ManateeClerk.com/Departments/TeenCourt.

group of Teen Court volunteers

Bottom Row, Left to Right: Vicky Alvarez, Isabella Jensen, Jackson Riffe, Gavin Conner, Skylar Armstrong, Obediah Darty, Aaron Fordham, Yantee Hines Sir; Top Row, Left to Right: Camden Caudill, Kayla LaRocca, Kaydn Davis, Chris Melody, Jackson Conner, Jabari Armotrading, Erline Constant and Jedediah Darty.