Media Release - Teen Court will be handed over to the Dispute Resolution Center

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. – On Friday, May 13, 2011, at 9:00 a.m., the final Kent County Teen Court Pilot Program hearing day will commence in Room 403 of 111 Commerce Ave. SW.  When Teen Court returns this fall, it will return as a full-fledged program of the Dispute Resolution Center of West Michigan. 

Teen Court began in the fall of 2009 as a partnership between Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Grand Rapids campus and The Carter-Alexander Institute for Law and Justice and with the cooperation of the 17th circuit court and the Kent County Prosecutor’s office.  It began as a small pilot program seeking to divert first-time and minor-offense juvenile offenders from the 17th Circuit Family Court. 

The Pilot Program has been a great success.  Over the two years it has existed, it has served around 75 juvenile offenders.  Rather than being focused on crime and punishment, Teen Court is based on the idea that when a crime is committed, relationships and the community are damaged.  The goal of the Teen Court process is that these young offenders will recognize what they have done is wrong and be challenged to think before they act in the future.  They are also given the opportunity to bring restoration to the relationships that were damaged by completing community service, writing apology letters, and paying restitution.  The program has also brought around 500 students from local high schools like Creston High School, East Kentwood High School, East Grand Rapids High School, Potter's House School, and Union High School,  through the program to serve as jurors.  Jurors are taught about principles of punishment and restorative justice.  They are challenged to see what part they can play in seeing justice and restored relationships come to pass.  And they are exposed to the legal system and the consequences for negative choices that lead to breaking the law.

The Carter-Alexander Institute is thrilled to pass on this successful program to the Dispute Resolution Center of West Michigan.  The Institute exists to research, educate, and then put into practice ideas and pilot programs like Teen Court that encourage justice within our communities.  Teen Court was the first pilot program for the Institute, and the Institute is glad to call it a success.  Stay tuned for future research, educational, and pilot programs coming from this one-employee nonprofit.

More Information About The Carter-Alexander Institute for Law and Justice

The Carter-Alexander Institute for Law and Justice was formed in 2007 by local Cooley Law summa cum laude graduate Anna R. Rapa.  Before law school, Anna spent several work serving at-risk youth and their families in the Belknap neighborhood.  Her experiences on the ground and in her travels through the third world led her to believe that the issues of injustice are bigger than just one child or one family or one community.  Whole structures of our community, government, and culture create barriers to peoples’ access to, and experience of justice. 

In law school, Anna discovered that she is not the only person interested in the cause of justice--the coming generations are also impassioned to see the world changed.  But in many cases, these students do not have the tools or the life experience to find solutions to injustices.  And as she explored issues of justice from a legal perspective, she realized that justice must be sought by whole generations of people over a broad range of disciplines, or it will not work.

And so The Carter-Alexander Institute was born.  The Institute exists “to invite, influence, and inspire coming generations to join us in seeking justice for the oppressed, the marginalized, and the forgotten through practical, interdisciplinary solutions.”  This mission is accomplished through interdisciplinary research and writing, community education, and innovative pilot programs.