‘Teen court’ gives non-violent offenders a second chance

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind (Oct. 27, 2015)-- In recent months, Indianapolis has seen a number of teens accused of committing violent and serious crimes.  It's an alarming reality that some kids face.

However, a local not-for-profit organization is giving teens a second chance at life.

Darius Mask, 16,  was given his second chance after going through teen court.

"I had an altercation at school," said Mask.

Tuesday, Mask posed as a defendant in a mock trial held at the 'Reach for Youth Center.'  Although the circumstances in that participial case were fictitious, he was once in the hot seat .  Now, he's a teen court success story after getting in trouble at school. Mask was given the option of expulsion or teen court and he chose to stay in school.

"It really helped me change quite a bit," said Mask.

"Kids need a second chance," said Kendee Kolp, CEO and president of Reach for Youth.

Teens who are first-time, non-violent offenders are eligible or the teen court program.

"If we can get kids early, finding out what the issues are in their lives, then we can stop them getting arresting in the first place," said Kolp.

The defense and prosecution teams are comprised of other teens and the jury are also peers. The judge is a local attorney. If the defendant completes his or her sentence then their juvenile record is wiped clean.

"The hope is that child is never arrested again," said Kolp.

"If you do get into an altercation or you get in trouble at school and you have to go to teen court just know it's for the better and helps in the long run," said Mask.

Reach for Youth reports that kids who go through the teen court program have a 16 percent chance of re-offending compared to 39 percent of kids who go through the traditional juvenile court system.

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