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Salt Lake Peer Court works to combat the disproportionate involvement of low-income and minority students in America’s school to prison pipeline by providing youth who commit minor offenses with an alternative to the Juvenile Court system. Our strategy aims to break the cycle of poverty by giving low-income and at-risk youth a chance to escape a lifetime in the revolving door of America’s justice system. As youth working together, caring and showing respect for one another, we will improve our neighborhoods, cities, and juvenile justice system. Through youth-led education and coordination with local community agencies, we will assist our peers and their families to strengthen their ties to school and community while building positive new skills.
Salt Lake Peer Court is based on a very simple but powerful idea: that youth who have committed offenses are connected with peer groups (panels) who hold them accountable and provide positive influence, encouragement, and support. The panel conducts weekly court hearings using a restorative justice approach: providing opportunities to make up for the harm caused, develop needed skills, and make positive community connections. Each youth that goes through Peer Court is matched with a peer-to-peer mentor who keeps in contact weekly over the entire time the youth is involved in the program. Peer mentoring is critical to the program and is one of the keys to Salt Lake Peer Court’s continuing success. Often a youth referred to Peer Court has little hope for his/her future. When a peer mentor lets the referred youth know that he/she matters and the mentor believe in them it marks the start of changing behaviors and changing lives!
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