NJ Teen Reviews Juvenile Offender Cases

(Photo by Jackie Snow via Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)

(Photo by Jackie Snow via Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)

An 18-year-old in New Jersey sits as a volunteer on one of the state’s Juvenile Conference Committees, set up to review charges against juvenile offenders in the state and make recommendations to the court.

Jackie Snow of Juvenile Justice Information Exchange spoke with the high school senior, Jason Pedreros, about his experiences.

Only first- and second-time offenders charged with minor offenses, such as breaking a window or shoplifting, are eligible to have their cases reviewed by the committees. Since October, Pedreros, who like other volunteers underwent training for the position, has seen about 30 juveniles whose cases came before the committee on which he sits.

Jason Pedreros (Photo by Jackie Snow via Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)

Jason Pedreros (Photo by Jackie Snow via Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)

Pedreros and the other volunteers meet once a month and typically see three or four cases at a time. They are given the police report and any other documentation, reviewing it before calling in the defendant and parent or guardian. Pedreros said the first thing they ask is why the defendant is there. If it doesn’t match the police report, it raises a red flag, he said. It’s only happened once so far.

Mostly, he said, the panel tries to give them a second chance. Depending on the charge, the committee might recommend to the judge that the defendant should do community service, get at-home counseling or even call the defendant’s school to get them extra tutoring.

“I get to see people who don’t have as much privilege as I do and try to help them,” Pedreros said. “It makes you more reflective.”

Pedreros, who will be entering Baylor University in the fall, counts Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas as one of his idols. But Pedreros, who has Colombian roots, also has good things to say about President Obama. Read more in the original article at Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.

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