Juvenile diversion programs (‘informal adjustments’ pursuant to SDCL 26-7A-11.1) have been demonstrated nation-wide to be a more effective way of preventing recidivism for first time juvenile offenders who have broken the law than formal court proceedings. In 2015, the South Dakota Legislature recognized this fact and via legislation mandated that each county in the State implement a court-approved juvenile diversion program. The intent of legislation was to ensure more juveniles are redirected within their own communities and do not enter the formal court system.
While many first-time offenses are required to be considered for diversion, the State’s Attorney’s office still has the option to petition most offenses directly into the formal juvenile court system. Discretion for juvenile diversion remains vested in the local state’s attorneys’ offices for juvenile diversion referrals. Juveniles who are provided the opportunity to participate in diversion, but who choose not to participate, or fail to successfully complete the program, may have formal court proceedings commenced by the State’s Attorney’s office thereafter.
Teen Court, managed by the Boys and Girls Club of Yankton, functions as Clay County’s juvenile diversion program. Teens who are first time offenders may be cited by law enforcement (for truancy, petty theft, intentional damage, or minor in possession/consumption of alcohol); thereafter, the Clay County State’s Attorney juvenile prosecutor will review the case and may refer the matter on for diversion in lieu of formal court proceedings. Other offenses are considered on a case-by-case basis for referral when charges are requested.
Teen Court’s mission includes:
These goals fall into the larger mission of the Boys and Girls Club: To inspire and enable all young people to reach their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens.
Teen Court is run by teens for teens within the community and facilitated by Boys and Girls Club staff. Teens who choose to participate in the Teen Court process will be required to attend an intake meeting with their parent/guardian and the Teen Court Coordinator for Clay County. The intake process will assess the teen’s individual needs, visit about the offense committed (juvenile offender must take responsibility for their actions in order to participate), discuss expectations and requirements of the program, and schedule a formal Teen Court appearance where a jury of their peers will determine the teen court sentence requirements for the offense.
Inquiries about Teen Court eligibility should be directed to Clay County’s juvenile prosecutor. Inquiries from active participants or their parents about requirements and status should be directed to the Clay County Teen Court Coordinator with the Boys and Girls Club of Yankton (contact information included in intake materials).
Teen Court is a confidential process. Participants and volunteers agree to maintain the confidentiality of the program and should not discuss the matters outside of the Teen Court proceedings.
Thank You to the generous support of the Clay County Board of Commissioners and taxpayers, as well as the United Way of Vermillion for providing funding to sustain the Clay County Teen Court program. Thank You also to local volunteers: attorneys who serve as judges, law enforcement officers who serve as bailiffs, and youth who serve as attorneys and jury members. Teen Court could not succeed without you, and the Clay County State’s Attorney’s Office appreciates your support of this valuable program for our youth.