(COVINGTON, La.) — Restorative justice is focused on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large. Law Studies students at St. Paul’s are experiencing this process first hand by participating in Teen Court, a juvenile justice system that gives young offenders a chance to work with their peers to overcome minor offenses without having to face life altering court sentences.
Law Studies students, who have been commissioned by the Baton Rouge Bar Association, help their peers while learning the proceedings of a court room. Students can defend and prosecute defendants, sit on the jury, or serve as a bailiff. “I look forward to what Teen Court has to offer,” Senior Jake Holincheck said. “I am excited to help my peers while learning about our court system,” he said.
At start of the school year, Law Studies students read Just Mercy, written by defense attorney Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. Stevenson details his time defending people wrongfully accused against capital punishment. In Just Mercy, Stevenson writes “the true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” The book has inspired students to closely examine our legal system and the injustice that often still exists.
Brian Logarbo helps run Teen Court at St. Paul’s. He said that Teen Court helps “reaffirm the dignity of a person, a message that is invaluable.”
Teen Court Coordinator Donna S. Buuck reaffirms this idea. “Our statistics reveal a low recidivism rate for Teen Court defendants,” Buuck said. “By participating in life skills group sessions and serving as jury members, teen defendants receive needed resources and guidance for making better decisions in the future,” she said. Buuck said that restorative justice is the backbone of the Teen Court program.