This is a story about second chances.
When a teen commits a crime it goes on their permanent record, which can lead to all kinds of disadvantages down the road. When they go to apply for a job, for example, they’ll have to admit they broke the law. But a diversion program out of Wayne County gives some low-level, first-time offenders a way to admit their guilt and keep their record clean at the same time.
Let’s meet the defendant
Chloe (not her real name) was with her friend at J.C. Penney. Her friend stole a bunch of stuff while they were there; Chloe stole a $30 bracelet. They both got caught before they could run out of the store.
Since shoplifting is a misdemeanor and because this is Chloe’s first ever run-in with the law, she’s decided to take her case to Teen Court. This particular teen court is affiliated with the Detroit Public School district. But there are dozens of teen courts around the state and more than 1,000 across the country.
In order for teen court to work, the defendant has to admit up front that she broke the law. Then it’s up to a group of high school students – a literal jury of her peers – to come up with an appropriate sentence.
"Hopefully they teach me something and hopefully they learn from my mistakes and stuff" says Chloe. "And I hope I leave there feeling relieved that I finally got to talk about it."