Teen Court gets financial boost from Kukui‘ula

Court had to be delayed a bit in the middle of last week.

Annaleah Atkinson, manager of the Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i Teen Court, said some of the court’s attorneys needed to catch the bus from Kapa‘a Middle School.

Before the first case could be heard, the Kaua‘i Teen Court welcomed Gini Kapali of Kukui‘ula Development who presented the program with a grant for $1,000.

Mary Navarro of Hale ‘Opio said the grant would be used to help the Teen Court program that has been in operation since 1998.

Teen Court has been one of Hale ‘Opio’s most dynamic programs, serving more than 300 youth last year, states a Hale ‘Opio press release.

These offenders are first offenders and referred by Family Court.

When a youth chooses to use Teen Court, it means the youth admits his or her guilt and agrees to a hearing with a jury of peers in a courtroom with peers serving as court bailiff, clerk and attorneys.

Teen Court is overseen by an adult volunteer judge who is most often a real judge.

When Teen Court respondents come to court, they know that if they complete their sentence requirements, they will clear their police records.

The array of tasks chosen by the peer jury for each offender’s sentence typically includes a letter of apology to the victim, community service hours, and assignment to a certain number of times as a juror for future offenders.

Depending on the crime committed, offenders may also be assigned to attend the substance abuse class, or the victim impact class, also run by Hale ‘Opio Teen Court Manager.

When respondents serve their sentence, they may also be asked to play the role of clerk, bailiff, jury, jury foreperson, or occasionally, state attorney.

The job of defense attorney requires some training and practice. The DA is the respondent’s “friend” in court, sitting next to them, they share with the court, the respondent’s strengths, any consequences already incurred and the lessons their “client” has learned.

The Teen Court model nationwide relies heavily on volunteers and the Kaua‘i Teen Court is no exception.

Hale ‘Opio is a non-profit organization whose mission is “Embracing Children and Youth Entrusted to Our Care,” and has been providing community-based programs for education, prevention, diversion, and treatment for children and youth, ages 0 to 20 years old, since 1975.

For more information on the Kaua‘i Teen Court, call Annaleah Atkinson at 245-2873, ext. 232.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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