Teens judging teens in Clallam Youth Court

PORT ANGELES – It takes a teenager to understand a teenager.

That’s the theory behind Clallam County Youth Court.

Students in middle school and high school volunteer to sit as judge, jury and advocates for peers accused of first misdemeanors

“We get a lot of offenders that get MIPs [minor in possession of alcohol] and stuff like that,” said Molly Barnes, a 17-year-old Port Angeles High School senior and a program participant.

“Most of it is peer pressure, and it is interesting to learn about peer pressure and why they cave in to that.

“Some kids are pushed into it more because they have other problems in their lives.”

On Sept. 12, 36 teenagers were sworn into the Clallam County Youth Court program, now in its eighth year.

The program allows the teenagers to be creative in ordering community service, research projects or other ways to make things right, said Irene DuBeau, a legal process coordinator for the Clallam County Juvenile Court and a coordinator of the youth court.

“The whole point of the program is restorative justice,” she said.

“It gives a chance to repair harm to the community.

“Kids feel disconnected from the community when they commit a crime. . . [The sentence] gives them a sense of belonging.”

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