Vermilion teens could be 'attorneys' in Peer Court

DANVILLE — Vermilion County teens who are looking for something to do during spring break next week may want to consider volunteering as an "attorney" with the Peer Court program.

Peer Court Inc. is holding an attorney training and court session on Tuesday at the David S. Palmer Arena, 100 W. Main St., Danville. It will start at 11:30 a.m. and go to 7:30 p.m. or until court is over.

The workshop is free and open to teens, ages 13 to 18, who are in high school. The training will include a late lunch/early dinner before the Peer Court session begins around 5 p.m.

Both new volunteers and those who already have been trained are encouraged to attend.

"It's a wonderful way to get an understanding of the juvenile justice system, the law and counseling, and it provides skills that can be used later in life," coordinator Katie Osterbur said. She added the experience will give teens who are interested in a career in law, criminal justice, counseling or education hands-on experience working with "real cases with real consequences."

During previous training sessions, teens have learned about the juvenile justice system and how to perform their role as a prosecutor or defense attorney using mock cases. This time, Osterbur said, they will get to work on actual cases that will go before a teen jury that evening.

Established locally in 1993, the diversion and accountability program is for youth offenders, who have admitted their guilt or participation in offenses such as breaking curfew, littering, possession of drugs or alcohol, criminal damage to property, burglary, unlawful use of a weapon and assault.

The offenders appear in Peer Court for a sentencing hearing, at which time testimony is heard and volunteer youth "prosecutors" and "defense attorneys" argue for what they feel is an appropriate sentence.

Then jurors, also youths, deliberate and return a sentence that generally includes community service hours, restitution, written apologies, education programs and the requirement to serve on a Peer Court jury.

Sessions are held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at the arena. Youth volunteers are asked to serve only twice a month or whenever they can attend.

To sign up, call Osterbur at 260-0023 or Executive Director Paul Sermersheim at 304-8821.

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