Columbia County’s Teen Court program deals with first-time offenders while giving teens real-life law experience

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. –  It’s a different approach to dealing with youth offenders in the courtroom, while giving teens in the community real life experience in law.

Bailey Watkins says she didn’t know if law was her thing until she decided to be a part of Teen Court through Columbia County Community Connections and the juvenile court system.

From there, she says she feels she’s made a difference.

“Going through Teen Court has made me realize that I want to be an attorney for the military and then retire and go into the juvenile court after,” said Watkins.

Watkins says she found Teen Court so interesting, she decided to do her senior project on it.

Teens who are part of the program are the lawyers, the jury, the bailiff and the court clerk inside the classroom.

The person being tried is also a teen, a first time offender.

“The one thing I love about this program is that it turns a negative into a positive. Because part of their sentence is to their peer sentences them to jury duty. So, I’ve had quite a few who are still with me from serving their jury duty. They liked it so much,” said Director Kari Poss.

Poss says it gives students who are interested in law, real- life experience.

But, it also allows juvenile court to keep first offenders from behind bars, allowing them to focus on more serious offenders, saving the court system money.

“Oh, it saves tons, it saves citizens money because Teen Court is all volunteer based and there’s no money that’s required from tax dollars,” said Poss.

Poss says it also teaches decision making and debate skills along with responsibility.

Ania Bledsoe, who’s currently a part of Teen Court, agrees.

“The people involved actually have to receive real cases, so once we receive those cases, we have about two weeks to prepare. So, you have to be responsible in getting all the information about the people you’ll be prosecuting or defending,” said Bledsoe.

If you’re interested in participating in the Teen Court program, you can visit http://www.ccc4kids.org and click on the Teen Court program.

You can also call Columbia County Community Connections at (706) 650-5010.

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