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Juvenile Offenders and the Impact of Youth Court and Peer Influence on Decision-Making

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Juvenile Offenders and the Impact of Youth Court and Peer Influence on Decision-Making
Creator:
MULKERRIN, KATHLEEN HOLLY
Copyright Date:
2008

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Subjects / Keywords:
Adolescents ( jstor )
Arbitration ( jstor )
Criminals ( jstor )
Juvenile courts ( jstor )
Juveniles ( jstor )
Peer pressure ( jstor )
Recidivism ( jstor )
T tests ( jstor )
Trials ( jstor )
Young offenders ( jstor )
Palm Beach County ( local )

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright Kathleen Holly Mulkerrin. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Embargo Date:
8/1/2005
Resource Identifier:
81492333 ( OCLC )

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JUVENILE OFFENDERS AND THE IMPACT OF YOUTH COURT AND PEER INFLUENCE ON DECISION MAKING By KATHLEEN HOLLY MULKERRIN A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF SCIENCE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2003

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Copyright 2003 by Kathleen Holly Mulkerrin

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I would like to dedicate this paper to the three most important women in my life: my mother, Kathleen; and my two sisters, Juli e and Lynne. During the course of my life you have each provided me with tremendous amounts of support, wisdom, faith, and love. Without your guidance, encouragement and s upport, I would not be here today. I am forever indebted to each of you. Thank you for not only loving me and providing exceptionally strong examples of proactive wo men, but most importantly for being Godly women. Finally, I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for making all things possible.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank several individuals who have undoubtedly influenced my life and successes as a graduate student. First, I would like to thank Dr. Rose Barnett, for being my mentor, friend, confidant, and thesis chair. She provided hours of support, encouragement, and motivation. She instilled in me the importance of always striving to be the best. She will always have a special place in my heart. Special recognition goes to my two other committee members, Dr. Garrett Evans and Professor Mark Fondacaro, for their insight, commitment, and support of this research endeavor. I also wish to express my deepest gratitude to Wilma Roy (Palm Beach County Youth Court Program Administrator) and Jim Kelly, J.D. (Palm Beach County School Board Police Chief). Without their support and help in accommodating my needs this study would never have come to fruition. I would also like to thank the numerous individuals within the Palm Beach County Youth Court Program who assisted with data collection. I would also like to express my gratefulness to my many friends in Gainesville and everywhere else in this world, for their love, encouragement, faith, support, and prayers. Without such Godly things, I would not have made it to this chapter of my life. Finally and most importantly, I would like to thank my family: my mom, Kathleen; my dad, Edward; and my sisters Julie and Lynne. They have each inspired me in their many ways during the different chapters of my life. I am forever grateful for all of their love, support, wisdom, encouragement, and humor. They each kept me sane throughout iv

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this process, allowing me to see life for what it’s really worth. I know that the Lord prepared me for this day and He will guide my way. So without further ado Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:2-5) v

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iv LIST OF TABLES.............................................................................................................ix ABSTRACT.......................................................................................................................xi CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................1 Youth Court: An Overview..........................................................................................1 Historical Overview......................................................................................................3 Juvenile Justice Defined...............................................................................................6 National Youth Court Center........................................................................................8 Four Distinct Youth Court Models......................................................................10 Law-Related Education.......................................................................................11 Palm Beach County Youth Court Program.........................................................12 Purpose of the Study...................................................................................................15 Rationale..............................................................................................................15 Research Questions.............................................................................................17 Hypotheses..........................................................................................................17 Significance of Study..................................................................................................18 Definitions of Terms...................................................................................................18 Assumptions...............................................................................................................21 Participants..........................................................................................................22 Validity and Reliability.......................................................................................22 Survey Administration.........................................................................................22 Limitations..................................................................................................................22 Participant Age....................................................................................................23 Measures..............................................................................................................23 Selection Bias......................................................................................................23 Sample Bias.........................................................................................................24 2 LITERATURE REVIEW...........................................................................................25 Youth Court and Diversion Program Research Studies.............................................25 Contemporary Youth Court Research Studies............................................................30 Theory.........................................................................................................................38 vi

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Ecology of Human Development........................................................................38 Decision-Making Theory.....................................................................................41 Simon’s decision-making theory..................................................................42 Decision theory perspective.........................................................................44 Theory of adolescent decision making.........................................................46 Youth Court and Decision Making.............................................................................47 3 METHODOLOGY.....................................................................................................50 Purpose and Objectives...............................................................................................51 Population...................................................................................................................51 Survey Instrument.......................................................................................................52 Offender Background.................................................................................................53 Youth Court Decision-Making Process Survey..........................................................53 Data Collection...........................................................................................................54 Data Analysis..............................................................................................................54 4 RESULTS...................................................................................................................57 Descriptive Results.....................................................................................................57 Gender.................................................................................................................59 Age and Education..............................................................................................59 Ethnicity..............................................................................................................59 Program...............................................................................................................60 Analysis of Research Questions.................................................................................60 Analyses of Hypotheses..............................................................................................69 Analysis of Variance...................................................................................................72 Summary.....................................................................................................................75 5 DISCUSSION.............................................................................................................77 Findings......................................................................................................................77 Demographic Results...........................................................................................77 Research Questions.....................................................................................................78 Overall Effectiveness of Youth Court.................................................................79 Parental involvement....................................................................................80 Peer influence...............................................................................................81 Decision-making..........................................................................................82 Hypotheses..................................................................................................................84 Limitations..................................................................................................................87 Implications for Practice.............................................................................................87 Recommendations for Future Research......................................................................88 APPENDIX A INTERNAL REVIEW BOARD APPROVAL LETTERS.........................................90 vii

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B INFORMED CONSENT LETTERS..........................................................................93 C SURVEY INSTRUMENT..........................................................................................96 REFERENCES................................................................................................................100 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH...........................................................................................108 viii

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LIST OF TABLES Table page 4-1 Participant profile for the decision-making process survey.....................................58 4-2 Age group and grade level of respondents...............................................................59 4-3 Program and direct referral breakdowns..................................................................60 4-4 Trial and arbitration overall mean score for research question 1: Is the perspective of a trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an arbitration juvenile offender regarding overall youth court program effectiveness?.................62 4-5 Trial and arbitration program effectiveness in relationship to the youth court process......................................................................................................................62 4-6 Trial and arbitration overall mean score for research question 2: Is the perspective of a trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an arbitration juvenile offender regarding specific stages of the youth court process on their decision to stay out of trouble?................................................................................63 4-7 Trial and arbitration juvenile offenders perspective on youth court stages.............64 4-8 Trial and arbitration overall mean score for research question 3: Is the perspective of a trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an arbitration juvenile offender regarding the perception of internal peers during the youth court process?....................................................................................................................65 4-9 Trial and arbitration juvenile offender perspectives regarding internal peer influence...................................................................................................................66 4-10 Trial and arbitration overall mean score for research question 4: Is the perspective of a trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an arbitration juvenile offender regarding the influence of external peers?...................................67 4-11 Trial and arbitration juvenile offender perspectives regarding external peer influence...................................................................................................................67 4-12 Trial and arbitration overall mean score for research question 5: Is the perspective of a trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an arbitration juvenile offender regarding their decision about getting into trouble?....................68 ix

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4-13 Trial and arbitration juvenile offender perspectives regarding their decision about getting into trouble.........................................................................................69 4-14 Independent samples t-test for perceived overall effectiveness of the youth court process......................................................................................................................70 4-15 Independent samples t-test for differences between perceived effectiveness of youth court stages on their decision to stay out of trouble.......................................70 4-16 Independent samples t-test for differences between trial and arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of internal peers during the youth court process..............71 4-17 Independent samples t-test for differences between trial and arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of external peer influence................................................71 4-18 Independent samples t-test for differences between trial and arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of their decisions regarding getting into trouble..............72 4-19 Age by number for each significant survey item.....................................................73 4-20 Youth court process stages (Part II) ANOVA..........................................................73 4-21 External peer influence (Part III) ANOVA..............................................................74 4-22 Decision-making items (Part V) ANOVA...............................................................75 x

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Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science JUVENILE OFFENDERS AND THE IMPACT OF YOUTH COURT AND PEER INFLUENCE ON DECISION-MAKING By Kathleen Holly Mulkerrin December 2003 Chair: Rosemary V. Barnett Major Department: Family, Youth, and Community Sciences The purpose of my study is to examine the perspective of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding the overall effectiveness of the youth court process. One hundred eighty-nine research participants between the ages of 10 and 18 from the Palm Beach County Youth Court Program participated in my study. The Youth Court Decision-Making Process Survey was used to examine youth court effectiveness, peer influence, and decision-making. The demographic portion of the survey requested additional information related to gender, age, grade level, and ethnicity. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, Independent Samples T-tests, and Analysis of Variance; while post hoc results were determined via Tukey’s honestly significant difference. Results revealed no significant differences in any of the proposed hypotheses, but critical information was ascertained regarding parent and peer influence and the impact of xi

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the youth court process as a whole. The findings suggest that peers may influence decision-making, while the parents role in the youth court process may also have bearing on decision-making. The study has implications for understanding how peers and parents influence a juvenile offender’s decision-making process. Recommendations for future research include exploring the effects of peer and parent influence during the youth court process. The decision-making process needs to be examined in combination with the intricate layers of a juvenile’s environment. xii

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Since the expansion of youth court programs, throughout the United States, occurred during the 1990s, several significant studies have examined the importance and impact of these juvenile justice diversion programs (Butts, Buck, & Coggeshall, 2002; Hissong, 1991; Heward, 2000; LoGalbo, 1998; Minor, Wells, Soderstrom, Bingham, & Williamson, 1999). While youth courts have been studied in some ways, there are still many aspects of the youth court process that have yet to be explored. Prior research has discussed the following: (1) philosophy of youth court; (2) the responsibility youth court has to juvenile offenders; and (3) and youth court recidivism rates. My study describes how the juvenile justice diversion program, youth court, attempts to serves as a protective and cohesive component for juvenile offenders (by holding youthful offenders accountable). I also examine the decision-making process of youth court offenders in relationship to peer influence and their commitment to staying out of trouble. Youth Court: An Overview Youth courts offer first-time offenders the opportunity to appear before a judge (adult or peer) and/or jury of their peers, to plead guilty, and to serve some type of imposed sanction. Sanctions may include restitution, community service, counseling, apology letters, drug testing, curfews, or jury duty. Youth court attempts to link the individual, family, school, community, and government collectively to produce active law-abiding citizens. Nationwide, youth courts may share many of the same fundamental principles, but youth court models do vary (Coles, 1999). Many youth courts accept only 1

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2 first-time offenders who have committed a misdemeanor(s). Crimes and cases that include rape, assault and battery, and murder are generally placed directly in the Department of Juvenile Justice. The average age of offenders is between 14 and 17years. Youth courts nationwide allow youths as young as 5 and 7 years old but no older than 18 old to participate in the youth-court process (W. Roy, personal communication, February 27, 2003). Two essential components of most youth court programs are parental involvement and an automatic guilty plea from the youth (National Youth Court Center, 2000). A pre-established guilty plea has been set in The National Youth Court Center guidelines to establish continuity, setting a precedent for youth courts nationwide to follow. This pre-established guilty plea also distinguishes youth court guidelines from any other type of juvenile court. Skeptics of the youth court process continue to debate the magnitude, effectiveness and positive impact of the youth court experience for juvenile offenders and their future decision-making processes (Blomberg, 1983; Gensheimer, Mayer, Gottschalk, & Davidson, 1986; Polk, 1984; Saul & Davidson, 1983). Skeptics also question the validity and reliability of youth court as an effective juvenile justice diversion program. Current studies have begun to examine youth court efficacy and the benefits of youth court as a diversion program in comparison to the traditional juvenile justice system. Several essential youth court components remain largely untested including: The effectiveness of youth court in reducing future delinquent behavior; Youth court as a protective barrier for at-risk delinquent youth; and The effectiveness of youth court to develop a juvenile offenders decision-making process.

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3 Youth court has increased in popularity and acceptance with policy makers and community leaders as an effective juvenile justice diversionary program. The rapid growth of youth courts in the United States stems from the increasing struggle with the Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) ability to handle escalating offense levels and increased caseloads each year. “Because traditional strategies for handling offenders have failed, there is increasing support for alternatives to system processing” (Pogrebin, Poole, & Regoli, 1984, p.306). Juvenile courts have become overcrowded, recidivism rates have continued to rise, and the Department of Juvenile Justices’ inefficiency to effectively respond to all juvenile offenders has led many to support diversion programs such as youth court (Harrison, Maupin & Mays 2001; Godwin, Steinhart & Fulton 1996). According to Heward (2000), two of the main changes affecting the juvenile justice system over the past decade are (1) increased changes mimicking the adult court system of handling predominantly violent youth and (2) an increased demand on the juvenile courts resources. By redirecting misdemeanor cases through the youth court system (which does not require the full complexity and encompassing authoritativeness of the juvenile court system) those resources of the juvenile justice system can then be reallocated for more severe offenses cases and habitual juvenile offenders (Heward, 2000). Historical Overview The first youth or teen court originated in 1976 in Odessa, Texas. Youth court programs initially started as a grass-roots effort with several small, but highly influential, youth court programs setting the precedent. Youth court was originally established as a diversion program from juvenile court, to limit the number of young offenders processed in the juvenile court system. “Within the past three decades, judicial decisions, legislative

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4 amendments, and administrative changes have transformed the juvenile court from a nominally rehabilitative social welfare agency into a scaled-down, second-class criminal court for young offenders that provides neither therapy nor justice” (Feld, 1999, p. 327). In Kentucky, Robert F. Stephens, a Supreme Court Justice, pioneered the way when he established a youth court program in 1992 in Kentucky through the Administrative Office of the Court’s law-related education program (Nessel, 1998). Through all of these grass-root efforts to transform at-risk youth into valuable contributing members of society, youth courts across the country have steadily progressed into an environment where positive peer influence is the norm. The number of youth court programs has grown from an estimated 50 in 1991, 78 in 1994 (National Youth Court Center, 2002a), and between 400 and 500 in 1998, to over 800 today (Nessel, 1998). Since their inception, youth courts across the country have been functioning independently, working on the principle of peer accountability, and growing at a steady rate to an estimated 869 youth court programs in 47 states and the District of Columbia (National Youth Court Center, 2003; Klug, 2000). The rapid growth of youth courts is compelling evidence that they are fulfilling a recognized need (Nessel, 1998, p. 2). Youth courts offer first-time juvenile offenders an alternative to a more traditionally structured juvenile justice system.The youth court process relies on the benefits of positive peer pressure, by holding youthful offenders accountable for their actions via a jury of their peers. The implication of the positive peer pressure factor is an essential link to reformulating the youthful first offenders decision-making process, who may be on the verge of recidivating. “Young respondents learn that there are consequences for their misbehavior and that their peers are willing to take the time to

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5 ensure that those consequences are just” (Donahue & Hirshon, 2002, p.5). Meanwhile, all members of the youth court process are “learning important citizenship knowledge and skills” (National Youth Court Center, 2002b, p.7). Until 1991, when the federal government initialized funding for youth courts, there was no central connecting organization to keep youth courts focused or synchronized as a juvenile justice diversion program. Thus, a major youth court initiative was implemented, providing funds to the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA). This initiative connected several essential and well-established governmental programs including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMSA) (Nessel, 1998). The first step for this federally funded initiative began in 1994 with a survey of every known teen or youth court program in the country; and was released as a report (Godwin, 1996). This publication revealed a need for a central connecting youth court agency. The National Youth Court Center (NYCC) was established as a cohesive link for all youth, teen, peer, and student courts to develop and provide national youth court guidelines. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) established the National Youth Court Center in 1999 at the American Probation and Parole Association in Lexington, KY (Vickers, 2000). The Center provides training, technical assistance, and resource materials to developing and existing youth court programs throughout the United States (Vickers, 2000). In addition to federal funding for youth court programs, several states took the initiative and began funding youth courts during the 1990s. Florida is one of five states

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6 that has directly provided legislation for youth courts (Florida Statute 938.19, 2000) and has a uniquely designed funding approach (National Youth Court Center, 2002a). In 1996, the Florida legislation passed funding for youth courts via the collection of $3 from those convicted of violating a state criminal statute or a municipal ordinance (Nessel, 1998). “The circuit and county court in each county where a youth court has been created, may adopt this mandatory $3 assessment fee against every person pleading guilty or convicted of most criminal statutes, ordinances, or civil penalties” (National Youth Court Center, 2002a, p.5-7). Separate from this assessment fee there other statutes in Florida that refer to the use of “records to determine eligibility” for youth court diversion programs (Florida Statute 43.0582) and to provide youth court as a “juvenile court intake option” (Florida Statute 85.21) (National Youth Court Center, 2002a, p.7). Currently 57 youth court programs exist in the state of Florida (National Youth Court Center, 2003). One of the most influential and durable youth courts in Florida is the Palm Beach County Youth Court (PBCYC) program, which was established in 1995 for two main reasons: “to keep youth from having a criminal record” and “from potentially becoming repeat offenders’ (Barnett & Easton, 2000). Since 1995, the School District of Palm Beach County School Police Department, the administrative and legal umbrella for the program has been offering countywide juvenile offenders an alternative to juvenile court. Juvenile Justice Defined The first juvenile court was established in the late nineteenth century with the Illinois Juvenile Court Act of 1899. This act was the first to establish a juvenile code, which was in direct response to children being treated as adults in the adult court system. This formal court system functioned under the principles of parens patriae (Rendleman,

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7 1971). “This philosophy held the assumption that the state had a moral and legal responsibility to care for children whose welfare was in jeopardy” (Risler, 1998, p 2; Mennel, 1972). There were five major principles enshrined in the Juvenile Court Philosophy, which included This court was created for juveniles ages sixteen and younger who may be neglected, dependent, or delinquent; The courts purpose was to rehabilitate juveniles, it was not intended to be punitive in nature; Presumably, no stigma would arise from a juvenile appearing in court and all records and proceedings were to be kept confidential; Juveniles were to be kept separate from adults while incarcerated and all juveniles under age 12 were barred from police stations and jails; and All court proceedings were to be conducted informally, but legally (Davis, Scott, Wadlington, & Whitebread, 1997). In today’s juvenile justice system, according to Heward (2000, p.35), “two of the main changes affecting the juvenile justice system today are increased waivers into the adult system of particularly violent youth and increased demand on resources”. Since 1899, the structure and function of the Juvenile Justice System has experienced many changes and has seen many transformations when categorizing and classifying youthful offenders. In recent years, the juvenile justice system has transformed into a more traditional court environment, similar to adult court, mimicking the adult configuration in philosophy and structure (Slobogin, Fondacaro, & Woolard, 1999). A fundamental public concern regarding the increase in juvenile crime rates, since the 1960’s to the present, has pushed this issue into the forefront of the nations conscience and the results have seen factors leading to youth court legislation. According to Heward (2002), twenty-five

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8 states have passed some type of legislation relating to youth court programs, but only nine of those states have passed some form of comprehensive legislation. These changes have decreased the amount of misdemeanors in the juvenile justice system, allowing the focus to remain on the most serious of offenses. Many of these developmental changes have altered the fundamentals of juvenile court to be more in sync with the adult system. The adult system is more focused on the use of punishment orientation, downplaying the importance and significance of alternative procedures and sentences (Slobogin, et al. 1999). National Youth Court Center According to the NYCC (2000) some of the benefits of youth court include Holding juvenile offenders accountable for their actions; Promoting restorative justice principles; Educating youth on the legal system; Reinforcing and empowering youth to be active participants in community problem solving; and Building good character traits in young people. Youth courts offer at least four promising benefits to potentially affect all of those involved in the process. The first benefit is accountability. Youth courts help to ensure that youthful offenders are held accountable for their illegal behavior, regardless of the infraction and unlikely to result in sanctions from the traditional juvenile justice system (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2000). The second benefit is timeliness. Youth courts move offenders through the “court” process in a shorter time frame than a traditional court system, thereby potentially increasing the positive impact of court sanctions, regardless of severity (OJJDP, 2000). The third benefit is cost

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9 savings. Youth courts utilize both adult and youth volunteers. According to the Independent Sector/Gallup Poll and the 1996 and 1999 hourly value “Teenagers volunteer 2.4 billion hours annuallya value of $34.3 billion to the U.S. economy” (National Youth Court Center, 2001a, p.7). Additionally, youth courts may handle a substantial number of offenders at low cost to the community (OJJDP, 2000). Community cohesion is the fourth and final element associated with the benefits of youth court. According to the OJJDP (2000), a youth court program may affect the entire community in the following four ways Increasing public appreciation of the legal system; Enhancing community-court relationships; Encouraging greater respect for the law among youth and; Promoting volunteerism among adults and youth. The philosophy guiding all youth court programs is essentially the same; to hold juvenile offenders accountable for their actions; to educate youth about the judicial and legal systems; and to empower youth to be active members in their community (OJJDP, 2000). In essence, youth courts teach the concepts of justice, power, equality, property and liberty (Nessel, 1998). Regardless of the function and design of the program, most youth courts provide for the dismissal or expungement of charges against the juvenile if they successfully complete the program and all imposed sanctions (NYCC, 2002). Currently, 92% of all youth courts nationwide require the youth to admit to the charges against them prior to participating in the program (NYCC, 2001b). In a groundbreaking study conducted by The Urban Institute of all self-reported youth courts nationwide, the majority of those youth courts accepted cases in which offenders admitted guilt or did not contest their guilt. Only 13% of all self-reporting youth courts were approved to determine guilt (Butts, Hoffman, & Buck, 1999).

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10 Four Distinct Youth Court Models Four distinct operating models dominate the nation’s youth court programs. The first model is the adult judge, which is most widely used in practice. In this model, an adult judge serves as a judge, ruling on courtroom procedures and clarifying any legal jargon (Butts et al., 1999; Nessel, 1998). In the adult judge model, youths volunteer as jurors, bailiffs, clerks, and attorneys. Presumed benefits of the adult judge model include the adult judge’s ability to help guard against procedural deviations and miscarriages of justice, and to offer instruction and possible direction as cases are presented (Acker, Hendrix, Hogan, & Kordzek, 2001). The second model is the peer jury, the second most prevalent model, wherein an adult judge is employed; lawyers are not used whereas teen jurors question the offender directly. The third model is the youth judge, where youths serve as judges, lawyers, jurors, bailiffs, and clerks. Finally, in the fourth model, the youth tribunal, there is no peer jury involved, instead prosecuting and defense attorneys present cases to youth judge(s) who determine sentencing (Nessel, 1998). Allowing peers to serve as jurors allows them to provide sentencing recommendations that send a clear message that criminal behavior does not have peer approval. In addition, the involvement of peers during the questioning process provides youth courts with perceptive insights into the behavior of adolescents. Teens have the potential to gain vast amounts of hands-on participation and practice in the legal process through each of these four distinct youth court models. The youth court process has the potential to benefit teens by socializing them and supporting them in the adaptation of appropriate behaviors in the legal system (Shiff & Wexler, 1996).

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11 Law-Related Education The Law-Related Education Act of 1978 defined Law-Related Education (LRE) as “education to equip non-lawyers with knowledge and skills pertaining to the law, the legal process, and the legal system, and the fundamental principles and values on which these are based” (Nessel, 1998, p. 5). According to Nessel (1998), youth courts and LRE work hand in hand to promote the following four key factors in our youth. First, the LRE fosters the knowledge, skills, and values that youth need to function effectively in a pluralistic, democratic society based on the rule of law. Second, since law inundates our lives, LRE focuses on real issues that affect real people in real situations. Third, the LRE provides active learning experiences to explore rights and responsibilities, confront and resolve disputes, and discuss and analyze public issues. Finally, LRE attempts to develop active citizenship, an element our society requires for those who can understand, live in, and contribute positively to the civic communities to which they belong. Since many youth court programs function on a youth volunteer basis, this method of promoting and fostering LRE is implemented by capitalizing on the presumed power of positive peer influence to impress offenders with accountability for their actions, and thus serve an early intervention and prevention function (Butts & Buck 2000). “Teen court provides a means of instilling an understanding of the law, a sense of the basis for moral decision-making, and a way of sharing information about the legal process – fundamental prerequisites for citizenship in a free society” (Lyles & Knepper, 1997, p. 225). This type of applied participation from juveniles in the legal process of youth court can benefit all youth involved through socialization and by aiding in the adaptation of appropriate behaviors in a courtroom setting (Shiff & Wexler, 1996).

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12 Palm Beach County Youth Court Program Since 1995, the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida has been proffering juvenile offenders an alternative to the juvenile court system. Various youth court offenders are referred through the State Attorney’s Office, the PBC School Police, local police departments, PBC Sheriffs Department, and the Florida Highway Patrol Department. Consequently, this program is an essential link between three main components: the school district, the local community, and the legal system. The School District of PBC School Police Department and the Safe Schools Center work in conjunction to provide a comprehensive approach to school safety efforts in the district (Barnett & Easton, 2001). In the PBCYC program, two separate programs are utilized and aimed at providing PBC juvenile offenders an alternative to juvenile court. The first of two programs used in the PBCYC program is the Trial Program. The Youth Court Trial Program is a case trial approach in which juvenile offenders are processed in a courtroom using the Adult Judge Model, comprised of active and retired adult judges. This model relies on students to serve as bailiffs, jurors, and attorneys for youth defendants; adult attorneys also volunteer their time and “services to preside over the trial and mentor student attorneys” (Barnett & Easton, 2001, p.10). During the Trial Program, juries of peers administer sanctions to the defendants. Overall, community service is the most widely used sanction followed by apology letters, essays, jury duty, and drug testing which collectively constitutes 67% of all sanctions given in the PBCYC program (Barnett & Easton, 2001). “Youth ages 5-18 are eligible for the Youth Court Trial Program if they are first time offenders charged with misdemeanors and minor non-violent felony offenses. They must admit their guilt and waive due process in order to participate” (Barnett & Easton, 2001, p.9). As stated

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13 earlier, these are fundamental components for all youth courts in the National Youth Court Center guidelines. The second program is the Youth Court Teen Arbitration Program. In this program, a panel approach is used where neutral or third parties are comprised of student attorneys and adults to hear the facts and arguments of the case and thereupon render a decision. Arbitrations cases differ from Trial cases in that the offender is often referred by the State Attorney’s Office, and/or the offender is a recidivist, but the State Attorney’s Office feels this youth deserves a second chance, which is what the youth court philosophy prides itself on. Both programs are conducted in one of the various courthouses located throughout PBC. The Trial Program is held in a courtroom and the Teen Arbitration Program is conducted in a hearing room (Barnett & Easton, 2001, p. 4). Both programs of the PBCYC are offered in an attempt to keep Palm Beach County youths from having a criminal record and to reduce recidivism. The PBCYC philosophy is two-fold; “to intervene early and provide intense interventions aimed at diverting youthful offenders from the criminal justice system” (Barnett & Easton, 2001, p. 2). In accordance with the National Youth Court Center goals, the PBCYC program attempts to enhance juvenile/adult relationships during the entire youth court process. This is attempted in several different ways, through volunteerism, parental involvement, and community – oriented policing. An essential component of the PBCYC program is volunteerism. Teen/student volunteers are trained and serve in the capacity of neutral or third parties during the arbitration process, attorneys, jurors, bailiffs, and/or clerks during the trial process. “Adult volunteers serve as judges, and attorneys on the bench” (Barnett & Easton, 2001, p. 7). Parental involvement is also a mandatory and indispensable

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14 component in the youth court process. The parent(s) and/or guardian(s) are notified after the juvenile offender is arrested or referred to youth court by the officer involved in the youth court intake process. Parent(s)/guardian(s) and the juvenile offender must agree and accept the conditions of the youth court program. Once the case is scheduled for trial, the parent(s)/guardian accompanies the juvenile to all necessary hearings and/or a trial. If the juvenile offender does not comply with the youth court guidelines and/or defaults on their sanctions, then the case is then referred back to the State Attorney’s Office for action and the parent(s)/guardian(s) are notified of these changes. Youth courts provide the opportunity for youth and adult volunteers to work hand in hand with schools, law enforcement agencies, and the court system (Heward, 2000). The youth court philosophy of holding peers accountable via positive peer pressure fits in predominantly well with community – oriented policing efforts. The School District of Palm Beach County School Police Department and the School Safety Center work collaboratively to provide an all-inclusive approach to school safety efforts throughout the district (Barnett & Easton, 2001). This all-inclusive approach works particularly well with community – oriented policing efforts, which are all working collectively for the success of the PBCYC program. Overall, the PBCYC program is meeting and exceeding many of the goals outlined by the National Youth Court Center. The PBCYC program provides the four benefits described in the National Teen Court Models (accountability, timeliness, cost savings, and community cohesion) to their local community and taxpayers (Barnett & Easton, 2001). Since the inception of the program in 1995, it has been meeting the demands of the juvenile offender population in that County. PBCYC is providing area juvenile

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15 offenders with the opportunity to expunge their criminal record before having one, along with offering opportunities for youth to further volunteer and participate in the legal system. Purpose of the Study The purpose of my study is to examine the perspective of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding the overall effectiveness of the youth court process. It will further explore the offenders (Trial and Arbitration) varying perceptions regarding the specific stages of the youth court process. It will investigate whether a specific stage had more impact than others and whether this stage varies by Trial and Arbitration. My study will examine perceptions of juvenile offenders regarding the impact of internal peers (working internal to the youth court process) during the youth court process. It will also explore perceptions held by juvenile offenders regarding the impact of external peers (friends). This examination of the impact of internal and external peers will also explore whether perceptions vary by Trial and Arbitration offenders. Last, my study will examine the differences in perceptions of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding their decision about getting into trouble. Rationale There has been an increase in the amount of evidence and research indicating that young offenders referred to youth court, instead of traditional juvenile court, are less likely to recidivate. Most reports have determined that this factor stems from positive peer pressure and how the role of peers handing down decisions has greater validity and impact than a traditional court system conducted by an adult judge. This has offered juvenile offenders a viable alternative to the more traditional juvenile justice system (Harrison, Maupin & Mays, 2001; Nessel, 1998). According to Butts, Buck, and

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16 Coggeshall (p. 34, 2002), “one of the strongest prima facie arguments for the use of teen courts is that they expose young offenders to the pro-social influence of non-delinquent peers. When a young person charged with a minor offense appears before a court of similarly aged peers, it may help to counter the adolescent notion that criminal behavior is ‘cool’ and that ‘everyone does it’. If this theory of teen court effectiveness is accurate, the impact of a youth’s experience in teen court should be directly related to the quantity and quality of his or her interactions with pro-social, non-delinquent peers”. Youth Courts have become a popular intervention for relatively young and usually first-time offenders (Butts et al., 1999). According to Acker et al., (2001, p. 198) “youth courts remain a new and largely untested intervention in the notoriously intractable problems represented by juvenile crime and delinquency” and relatively few attempts have been made to evaluate the efficacy of youth court (Godwin, 1998; Minor, Wells, Soderstrom, Bingham, & Williamson, 1999; Nessel, 1998; Singer, 1998). More research and evidence implying a reduction in recidivism due to juveniles being diverted to youth court needs to be established and documented. Additional research is also required to assess whether youth courts are achieving their objectives, which has been set forth in the National Youth Court Guidelines, before confirmation of the youth court process can be substantiated as an effective juvenile justice diversion program (Butts & Buck, 2000). My study will help youth court practitioners gain insight and understanding into the complex world of juvenile offenders on the verge of recidivating. Although youth courts tend to enjoy broad community support, little is actually known about how effective the youth court process is in reducing future delinquent behavior and how it affects the decision-making process of its participants (OJJDP & NCJRS, 2000).

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17 The primary research question focuses on perspectives of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding overall program (youth court) effectiveness. The second research question focuses on perspectives of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding specific stages of the youth court process on their decision to stay out of trouble. The third and fourth research questions focus on perceptions of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding peer influence. The final research question focuses on Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding their decision about getting into trouble. Research Questions Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding overall youth court program effectiveness? Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding specific stages of the youth court process on their decision to stay out of trouble? Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding the perception of internal peers (youth court volunteers) during the youth court process? Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding the influence of external peers (friends)? Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding their decision about getting into trouble? Hypotheses Ho1: No significant difference between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of overall effectiveness of the youth court process. Ho2: No significant difference between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of effectiveness of youth court process stages on their decision to stay out of trouble. Ho3: No significant difference between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of internal (youth court volunteers) peers during the youth court process.

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18 Ho4: No significant difference between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of external peer (friends) influence. Ho5: No significant difference between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of their decision regarding getting into trouble. Significance of Study There is a growing body of literature on juvenile offenders diverted to youth court. This literature aims at understanding and explaining the significance of the youth court process compared to the traditional juvenile justice system. This research can provide essential information about the youth court process as a protective factor for youth at risk. In addition, this research can also provide essential information regarding a juvenile offenders decision-making process within the context of the ecological system. The information gained from my study will benefit youth court researchers and practitioners, policy makers, community leaders, school police departments, and school boards in maximizing the benefits of the youth court process. Based on the results of my study, future researchers will be able to examine in greater detail the benefits of youth court as a protective factor in the decision-making process for juvenile offenders. Definitions of Terms In order to understand the purpose and intent of my study, it is necessary to define some fundamental terminology that is applicable to this particular youth court program and study. Several essential terms are defined below. Active. Cases are considered active when the juvenile offender is still awaiting their trial or arbitration hearing; or when the juvenile offender is in the process of completing their imposed sanctions (PBCYC guidelines, 1995). Arbitration juvenile offender. An arbitration participant is a juvenile with a prior arrest record who has been diverted to this youth court program via the State Attorneys

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19 Office to seek an Arbitration Panel hearing before neutral or third parties, consisting of student attorneys and adults who hear the facts of the cases and submit a decision (Barnett & Easton, 2000). Cancelled. Cases are considered cancelled when the arbitration defendant is a “no show” or when the State Attorney’s Office requests the case be returned to juvenile court. Juvenile offender cases are considered cancelled when the victim does not accept youth court as an alternative to juvenile court; when the defendant is a “no show”; when the juvenile offender has a prior charge; the juvenile offender has participated in youth court previously; or if the juvenile offenders parent or guardian cannot be contacted (PBCYC guidelines, 1995). Juvenile first offender officer. A juvenile first offender officer is a Palm Beach County police officer assigned to the PBCYC program. The JFOO works exclusively with each juvenile offender during each stage of the youth court and follow-up process (Barnett & Easton, 2000). Juvenile offender. A juvenile offender is a youth between the ages of 7 and 18 years who does not have a prior arrest record and/or has not appeared as a juvenile offender in this youth court program prior to their first arrest (PBCYC guidelines, 1995). Recidivism. For the purposes of my study recidivism will be defined as “re-arrest”, past youth court studies have also such terms as “subsequent referral to juvenile probation”, “new court appearance” or “new police contact” (W. Roy, personal communication, February 27, 2003). Sanctions. Sanctions are considered any and all imposed obligations that the Judge, JFOO’s and or the jury of peers impose on a juvenile offender. Sanctions are

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20 more commonly referred to in youth court as dispositions. Sanctions include, but are not limited to, community service, referral programs, counseling, report cards, curfew, restitution, victim apology letters, apology essays, teen/youth court jury duty, monetary restitution, and random drug testing (Barnett & Easton, 2000). Successful. Cases are considered successful when the juvenile offender has completed all of their imposed sanctions within one years time; beginning with the date of arrest and ending precisely one year later. A youth may still be considered “successful” in the PBCYC program even if they commit a second offense at any time after the initial year has passed (PBCYC guidelines, 1995). Trial juvenile offender. A trials participant is a juvenile first offender, who is processed in a courtroom via the adult judge model approach (Barnett & Easton, 2000). Unsuccessful. Cases are considered unsuccessful when the juvenile offender does not complete all of their imposed sanctions and/or the juvenile offender is rearrested within one year of the initial offense (PBCYC guidelines, 1995). Stages of the youth court process. Each of the following stages describes the Palm Beach County Youth Court Process in chronological order. Intake process. Where the juvenile offender is arrested and processed at one of the various intake centers throughout Palm Beach County or through the Juvenile Assessment Center. Phone call. A phone call is place to the parent(s) or guardian(s) regarding the arrest of their child, and steps are made to schedule the first meeting with the juvenile offender, parent(s) or guardian(s), and the JFOO.

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21 Conference. A conference, including the juvenile offender, police officer, and the parent(s)/guardian(s) is held to establish the guidelines and regulations of the youth court process. At this time, the juvenile offender, along with the parents/guardians approval decide to continue with youth court or decline and then be turned over to the juvenile justice system for an official trial or hearing. Trial program or arbitration panel. This portion of the youth court process is where a juvenile offender admits guilt, is tried by a student attorney (Trial Program) or a hearing is held (Arbitration Panel). Sanction. At this stage, the juvenile offender must perform all imposed sanctions in a predetermined time frame in order to be considered “successful” for youth court. A jury of peers imposes sanctions that are relevant to the crime(s) committed by the juvenile offender. Exit. At this point, the juvenile offender has either completed all imposed sanctions and is considered “successful” or they have not completed all sanctions and are considered “unsuccessful” or they have dropped out of the youth court process and are considered “cancelled” or they may not have completed all imposed sanctions and are considered “active”. Assumptions Assumptions are conditions accepted as facts, but have yet to be proven or verified. These assumptions have been stated to inform the reader of the possibility of unexplained variances in the results of my study. Certain assumptions have been inferred concerning the participants, methodology, and instrumentation of my study.

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22 Participants The researcher has assumed that all active participants in my study will report truthful and accurate responses during survey administration. It is also assumed that participants in my study reflect the typical age and offense types of youth court participants. Validity and Reliability It has also been assumed that the Youth Court Decision-Making Process Survey being used as assessment instrumentation will yield valid and reliable responses. This particular survey is an adaptation of several reliable surveys used in the youth court and juvenile justice contexts, which include The First Offender Risk Assessment Index (FORAI), by Sutphen and Risler (1991) and the Evaluation of Teen Courts (ETC) Project Self-Administered Questionnaire (SAQs) by Butts, Buck, and Coggeshall, (2002). Survey Administration The instrument was implemented by the PBCYC police officers using directions provided by the researcher, per the Internal Review Boards Informed Consent Process. Limitations Limitations encompass the parameters of the problem established by people or factors prior to the current study (Neutens & Rubinson, 2002). This includes various aspects of the problem to be considered in the current study and those problems that will not be investigated. My study was limited to the summer months of 2003 in the Palm Beach County area. More specifically, it was limited to four specific youth court locales, including Juvenile Assessment Center located in West Palm Beach, Florida; Gun Club Courthouse located in West Palm Beach, Florida;

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23 South County Courthouse located in Delray Beach, Florida; and Community Court also located in West Palm Beach, Florida. The survey instrument was also limited to questions that generated quantitative data; this was primarily due to the straightforwardness of data analysis using statistical responses. Additional time constraints imposed on the researcher limited access to the data to one fiscal year of the PBCYC program. Participant Age The age range of PBCYC participants is from 5 to 18 and the mean is 17-years of age, according to the 2000-2001 data from the PBCYC Evaluation Study (Barnett & Easton, 2002). For my study, the research participants ranged in age from 10 to 18 years of age. Both juvenile first offenders and repeat juvenile offenders were included in my study. Measures Self-reporting in nature, most appraisal tools can be influenced by the researchers desired outcome; therefore, the participant’s mood, understanding, and perception of the survey will be taken into consideration. Inexplicable deviations in the results may be due to individual differences rather than inconsistencies with the instrument (Neutens & Rubinson, 2002). Selection Bias The subjects were drawn from the PBCYC program, Palm Beach County, Florida. My study was viewed as a convenience sample. The researcher approached the PBCYC program because it is considered successful according to the research in terms of longevity, substantial volume of participants in the youth court process, and availability and accessibility to its youth court participants.

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24 Sample Bias The group studied was not pre-screened for age, gender, ethnicity, religion or other demographic characteristics. The demographic composition of the participants were assumed to be of normal youth court population with respect to The demographics of adult judge model youth court programs similar in size; County population size; and Structure of the program. In addition, a transient youth court population does not grant access for a longitudinal study.

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CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW The following chapter will present a comprehensive review of the relevant literature particularly focused on the following areas of youth court related studies that are significant to the present study. The historical perspective and contemporary youth court studies and diversion programs will be discussed. Two specific theories will be discussed in relation to youth court including the Ecology of Human Development and the theory of Decision-Making. Youth Court and Diversion Program Research Studies Pogrebin, Poole and Regoli (1984) conducted one of the first and most prolific studies of a juvenile justice diversion program. The project ran from October 1977 through March 1979 with a focus of diverting first and second time misdemeanor offenders. This diversion program set out to prove that a “positive extension of the juvenile justice system” was a possibility with so many frustrations amid the juvenile justice system (Pogrebin, et al, 1984, p. 306). “Because traditional strategies for handling offenders have failed, there is increasing support for alternatives to system processing” (Pogrebin, et al, 1984, p.306). The Adams County Juvenile Diversion Project (ACJD), located in Adams County, Colorado, was designed to test the efficacy of its services including: 1) reduction of court caseloads: 2) reducing recidivism; 3) not widening the net of social control; and 4) lending itself to rigorous evaluation, with the underlying goal of reducing recidivism (Pogrebin et al., 1984). This study used random assignments for both a control and intervention group to compare recidivism rates. Regardless of the 25

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26 offense committed, the control group received a lecture and were then released by an intake counselor. Participation in the diversion program was voluntary at every stage of the process, and parental involvement was mandatory to potentially counteract the circumstances surrounding the offense. After the first fifteen months of program implementation, an analysis was conducted to measure the diversion programs effectiveness. “Pre-diversion averages were compared with post-diversion averages suggesting that court filings decreased by 21.3% during program implementation” (Pogrebin, et al, 1984, p. 312). Recidivism was defined as the “reapprehension or referral to the District Attorney of a technically provable subsequent offense” (Pogrebin, et al, 1984, p. 312). During the first eighteen months of program implementation, the recidivism rate for the control group was 11.5%, compared with the intervention groups’ 6% recidivism rate during the same time frame, and a subsequent 3% recidivism rate after successful termination from ACJD. According to Pogrebin, et al, (1984) program effectiveness and reduced recidivism rates cannot be evaluated with the data collected for this study, however, what can be evaluated is the difference in recidivism rates between the control and intervention groups. The intervention group had a lower recidivism rate when compared with the control group. Recidivism rates were calculated monthly to show steady development in program effectiveness. Overall, the researchers agreed that a program similar to ACJD cannot solve all the problems associated with the juvenile justice system, however, diversion programs, similar to ACJD can offer a positive direction for juvenile justice diversion programs. Reichel and Seyfrit (1984) conducted an unprecedented youth court study, during a time when diversion programs were almost unheard of in the literature. The juvenile

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27 justice system of Columbia County, Georgia facilitated the use of peer juries to determine case disposition for certain offenses and juvenile offenders. Planning for this innovative approach to juvenile offenders began in the fall of 1979. The Columbia County Court service workers developed their own variation of a peer jury, drawing from the experiences of delinquency literature identifying the existence of peer juries in several states. This study interviewed and surveyed a small number of peer jury members, including juvenile offenders, parents of juvenile offenders, and school administrators. The interviews lasted approximately one hour in length and consisted of open-ended types of questions. These open-ended questions included such topics as opinions and feelings towards the peer jury process. These interviews guided the way for the development of questionnaires, which were distributed to juvenile offenders, peer jury members, and parents of the juvenile offenders. The findings in this study were reported in actual numbers, rather than percentages due to a relatively small sample size. Reichel, et al. (1984) concluded that the peer jury process appealed to juvenile offenders, parents, schools, and peer jurors, indicating positive assessments of the peer jury process as a promising diversion program for the Columbia County Peer Jury. They also concluded that a sufficient level of positive impact from peer juries on youth court participants was enough evidence to warrant additional research. In 1987, Seyfrit, Reichel, and Stutts conducted an effectiveness evaluation study of the Columbia County, Georgia peer jury program to assess its effectiveness at reducing recidivism. This technique was used to compare the diversion technique of two peer juries with the traditional system of informal adjustment. Columbia County and Liberty County were selected because both counties met the desired criteria set forth by the

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28 researchers. The Liberty County program used traditional informal adjustments, whereas the Columbia County Peer Jury (CCPJ) program followed the precedent set by the aforementioned studies for specific peer jury guidelines. These guidelines included: allowing only juveniles who committed misdemeanors within the courts’ jurisdiction, admission of guilt, informal processing is in the best interest of the youth and community, parental involvement is mandatory, participation is voluntary, and the length of time a juvenile is supervised cannot surpass six months (Seyfrit, et al. 1987). Liberty County and Columbia County both used the same docketing procedures and forms. The main difference between these two counties was the racial composition of their populations Columbia County’s population was 83% White Non-Hispanic compared to 59% in Liberty County. The sample size for CCPJ was fifty-two juveniles while the Liberty County program had fifty juveniles. Overall, the CCPJ program used the peer jury process significantly more than Liberty County when processing repeat juvenile offenders. Seyfrit, et al. (1987) recommended the peer jury program could handle more serious transgressions and repeat juvenile offenders. The researchers noted that this preliminary report did not address the efficiency or impact/outcome of the Columbia County Peer Jury and hoped that this report would encourage further research in diversion programs. Hissong (1991) studied and compared a post adjudication youth court program in Arlington, Texas with traditional juvenile justice sentencing. All Arlington Teen Court participants were composed of “Class C” misdemeanor offenders. Each teen court participant was given the choice of participating in teen court or serving in type of traditional sanction. The study concluded that the youth court process was superior at

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29 deterring offenders from recidivating when compared with peers sentenced via traditional juvenile justice avenues. In addition, this teen court program was found to have positive-lasting effects on deterring juveniles from recidivating. The white teen court survival rate was higher than for Non-white teen court participants, and teen court was less effective for girls than for boys when compared with non-teen court offenders. Hissong concluded that more research is warranted even though the Arlington Teen Court program was found to be a superior program to the traditional juvenile justice system. Hissong (1991) found a significantly lower proportion (25%) of juveniles who were sentenced by their peers’ recidivated than juveniles who were sentenced through traditional means (36%). Quinn and Sutphen (1994) examined the social factors contributing to juvenile delinquency. They assessed juvenile first offenders in Athens-Clark County, Georgia using the First Offender Risk Assessment Index with the following variables, (1) age at first court referral; (2) seriousness of offenses; (3) parental supervision; (4) school functioning; (5) peer group; (6) alcohol and drug use; (7) criminality in the family; and (8) family APGAR. Significant relationships were found in the following areas: (1) age at first court referral, family functioning, and peer relations; (2) seriousness of offense, peer group, and overall risk score; (3) parental supervision was significantly related to peer group adequacy, presence or history of criminal involvement in the family, and overall risk score; and (4) school functioning was significantly related to overall risk score (Quinn & Sutphen 1994). Quinn and Sutphen concluded that peer group relations were significantly associated with placing juveniles at risk for delinquency. In addition, parental supervision, family functioning, and peer group relations are entwined with one another, which are all associated with increased risk for juvenile delinquency. To some

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30 extent, school functioning also contributes as an increased risk factor (Quinn & Sutphen 1994). In 1995, a North Carolina teen court study revealed that a comparison between recidivism rates of pre-program juveniles and a sample of teen court participants found that the pre-program juveniles had lower recidivism rates. During a 7-month follow-up, 20% of the teen court cases and 9% of the comparison group recidivated (North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, 1995). McNeece, Falconer, Bryant and Shader (1996) evaluated two Central Florida Teen Court Programs: the Hernando County Teen Court and the Marion County Teen Court. This study focused on the nature of the teen court cases and imposed sanctions. McNeece et al. found that 57% of the Marion County Teen Court defendants completed all imposed sanctions, whereas the Hernando County Teen Court defendants completed 75% of all imposed sanctions during the first – three quarters of the 1995-96 funding year. Interestingly, the Marion County program issued “tougher and more severe” sentences than those issued in the Hernando County program. Despite the differences in these two teen court programs, both have been successful juvenile justice diversion programs for several reasons, including the impact of the program on juvenile offenders, parents, peer jury members, volunteers from the community, and the opportunity for each participant and defendant to have first hand experience and involvement in the juvenile justice system. Contemporary Youth Court Research Studies Producing successful youth court programs is of particular importance to juvenile justice policy makers. As a result, more recent youth court studies have focused on specific program models including identifying the target population, method of

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31 courtroom procedures, sanctions, and recidivism. These studies provide practitioners, researchers, and the juvenile justice system with information regarding what youth court programs work, how recidivism is studied, and how youth courts affects all participants. In 1997, Zehner conducted an evaluation study of the Bay County Teen Court Program (BCTCP), located in the panhandle area of Florida. Two important elements of the BCTCP are mandated participation in counseling for parents and juvenile offenders and the essential ingredient of confidentiality of all teen/youth court hearings. The results of this study were in reference to the number of decreased juvenile court cases for that specific evaluation period. The BCTCP reduced the juvenile court caseload by more than 250 cases. Juveniles who failed to complete all imposed sanctions within the allotted time of 30 days were reverted back to juvenile court. Beck (1997) released a qualitative study on the Orange County Peer Court (OCPC) located in Orange County, California, which is a hybrid of both diversion and conventional juvenile justice programs. It is considered a diversion program under the philosophy that offenses heard are not reflected on a juvenile offenders record and the informal adjustments are given over to a jury of peers. Beck (1997) reported that in the first year of operation, the OCPC resulted in an 85% success rate for all juvenile offenders. According to the OCPC, they define recidivism as the unsuccessful completion of all imposed sanctions after six months of a juvenile’s youth court appearance. This study was the first known youth court study to use Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Model Theory (1979) when conducting the formal research investigation of the OCPC. The objective of Becks’ study was to analyze interactions during the youth court process using Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological model, which incorporates each layer or

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32 system of a juvenile’s life into the youth court process as a whole. The “study focused primarily on the issues raised by jury questioning and the quality of the offenders’ and their parents’ responses” during the youth court procedure. The questions were broken down into 13 groups of questions, with a total of 27 categories and “provided an empirically derived set of issues that were interpreted as having been potentially useful to the jurors as criteria for sentencing, to estimate the offenders’ level of moral understanding of their offenses, and to estimate how well the offenders had been rehabilitated before appearing in court” (Beck, 1997, p.45). The involvement of the peer jury during questioning provided the jurors with vital information and insight into the juvenile offender, offering potential victims and offenders the full circle of Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Model by incorporating each entity of the ecological systems into all imposed sanctions. However, in this study there was little variation of imposed sanctions from the peer jury. Analysis of these communications reveals that one objective of diversion programs, which is to “provide experiences for youth that surpass the administration of justice alone,” (p. 46) was met while clearly recognizing that the peer court process is rehabilitative in purpose and outcome. An unpublished thesis by Butler-Mejia (1998) studied the Montgomery County, Maryland Teen Court. Post-program recidivism rates found that only 3% of teen court defendants (n=177) were rearrested during a one-year follow up period. LoGalbo (1998) studied post-program arrests of juveniles referred to teen court in Sarasota County, Florida. LoGalbo concluded that 13% of all teen court defendant’s recidivated during a five-month follow-up period. In addition, successful teen court

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33 participants were also associated with having improved attitudes toward self and authority figures, including judges, as a direct result of the teen court process. An overview of Kentucky’s Teen Court program, focusing on sentence completion and recidivism rates, revealed that more than 70% of teen court referrals completed their imposed sanctions and less than one-third recidivated over a one year follow up period (Minor, Wells, Soderstrom, Bingham, & Williamson, 1999). For this particular study, Minor et al. (1999) operationalized recidivism as the number of further appearances in juvenile court for new offenses. Researchers paid particular attention to prior appearances in juvenile court whether the offender completed peer-imposed sentences, and whether the offender’s recidivated during the first year of their teen court appearance. The study also focused on the types of sentencing imposed by peers and found that sentencing directly correlated to recidivism. A literature review discussed the history and philosophy of teen courts, the lack of outcome studies and systematic analyses of teen court recidivism, and the panacea phenomenon. According to Minor et al. (1999), the intention of teen court is to hold juvenile offenders accountable to their peers in a way that promotes education and makes dispositions meaningful. This consistent finding shows a strong link between peer relations and delinquency (Warr, 1993, and Elliot, Huizinga, & Ageton 1995). Minor et al. addressed the effectiveness of teen court programs and the sanctions issued by peers and the potential outcomes for recidivism in relation to the imposed sanctions. The controlling factors in this study included age, gender, and ethnicity. This study builds on the significant reduction in recidivism rates due to peer driven sanctions. The increased amount and rising popularity of teen court programs, according to Minor, et al. is due to

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34 the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s national satellite broadcast in May 1998 titled Youth Courts: A National Movement. Reising and Poch (2000, p.60) described the Dakota County Minnesota Juvenile Peer Court program as “a middle ground between school-centered sanctions and juvenile court”. This study illustrated the functionality of an alternative sentencing program utilizing probation officers to monitor imposed sanctions. Juveniles who do not complete all ordered sanctions are referred to the State Attorney’s Office for formal prosecution in the juvenile court. Juveniles who do successfully complete their probation may be required to serve as a peer court juror in their own school or at another school. At the end of probation, the matters are dismissed and the juvenile is eligible to have his or her records sealed once he or she reaches age eighteen. It was noted in this study that social studies teachers in the county high schools were vital to the success of the court as they teach a curriculum unit on juvenile court and peer court annually. Harrison, Maupin, and Hayes (2001) studied the teen court process and noticeable recidivism rates of the Dona Ana County Teen Court, New Mexico. This study, the first of its kind for this particular teen court, was able to identify some of the successes and shortcomings in the program. A 25% recidivism rate was found during a four-year period (1994-1998). Harrison et al. concluded that overall recidivism rates were affected by the following factors: gender, age, prior arrests or referrals, history of sanction completion, juveniles’ residence, and the severity of the imposed sanction. The implications of this study indicate that completion of the teen court process has a positive influence on recidivism rates. In addition, there was a linkage found between increased participation in community service and/or the teen court judicial process and recidivism.

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35 Barnett and Easton (2000) conducted an evaluation study of the PBCYC program. This study was conducted using data from the years 1995-2000 and reported several significant findings for all five years. The total number of cases rose annually, beginning with 301 cases in 1995/1996 to 2,161 cases in 1999/2000. A detailed analysis of the PBCYC program effectiveness for 1999-2000 was conducted. The five most frequently occurring offenses by juvenile first offenders for 1999/2000 were found as follows: 1) Petit Theft (18%): 2) Possession of Marijuana (less than 20 grams) (17%): 3) Battery (8%): 4) Possession of Alcoholic Beverage by a Minor (6%): and 5) Possession of Paraphernalia (5%). For the five-year data evaluation, 14-17 year olds committed the majority of offenses and most offenders were 16 year-old, white non-Hispanic males (57.4%). Female offenders ranged from a high of 32.1% during 1996/97 to a low of 27.2% during 1999/2000. Peer-imposed sanctions were consistent with national data trends; with the top five sanctions constituting 67% of all sanctions given. In 1999/2000, Community Service (21%) was the dominant sanction used, followed by Apology Letter (18%), Essay (17%), Jury Duty (7%), and Report Cards (6%). The PBCYC program has defined recidivism as “committing a second offense”. More specifically, if a juvenile offender commits a second offense prior to their one-year mark, then the PBCYC program deems these individuals as being unsuccessful. In addition, there are several other views of “unsuccessful” youth court participants. If a juvenile offender does not complete any of the peer-imposed sanctions and/or if they do not comply with any of the peer-imposed sanctions they are also considered unsuccessful. This study revealed a recidivism rate of 14% during the 1999-2000 year, which directly corresponds to the previous years youth court participants.

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36 Barnett and Mulkerrin (2002) conducted a follow up evaluation study on the PBCYC program. This study found an increase in caseload, with 3,127 cases, which is up 67.4% from the last year. The most frequently occurring offenses, represented 60% of all offenses, were slightly different from prior study’s’ findings. The most frequently occurring offense was Retail Theft (24%), followed by Possession of Marijuana (less than 20 grams) (11%), Battery (9%), Possession of Alcoholic Beverage by a Minor (6%), and Possession of Paraphernalia (5%), and Petit Theft (5%). The most notable change occurred in Retail and Petit Theft offenses because the definitions of both charges changed. Seventeen year-olds committed the majority of offenses, which changed a five-year trend, which found 16-year olds were the majority of offenders. Male offenders (69%) continued to exceed female offenders (31%), which is a finding consistent with national data trends for youth court participants. Interestingly enough, the five most frequently occurring offenses for female offenders were found to be: Retail Theft (47%), Battery (9%), Possession of Marijuana (5%), Possession of Alcoholic Beverage by a Minor (4%), and Disrupt a School Activity (3%). Male offenders differed slightly in their five most frequently occurring offenses; Retail Theft (19%), Possession of Marijuana (13%), Battery (8%), Possession of Paraphernalia (6%), and Possession of Alcoholic Beverage by a Minor (5%). The majority of offenders in the PBCYC were white, non-Hispanic (53%). Staying relatively consistent with prior findings on peer-imposed sanctions, the five most frequently occurring sanctions used were: Community Service (26%), Essay (20%), Apology Letter (18%), Jail Tour (5%), and Referral Program (5%). The PBCYC program had an increase in successful cases (85.7%), from the prior study (83.1%). The significance of the amount of successful cases adds an

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37 appealing addendum attesting to the impact that the Palm Beach County’s Youth Court Program has on serving the youth and community. Butts, Buck, and Coggeshall (2002) conducted an evaluation of four specific teen court programs throughout the United States. The Evaluation of Teen Courts (ETC) was conducted by the Urban Institute and funded through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office of Justice Programs, and the United States Department of Justice. Pre-court attitudes and post-court recidivism were measured among the four teen courts including: The Anchorage Youth Court in Anchorage, Alaska; The Maricopa County Teen Courts in Maricopa County, Arizona; The Montgomery County Teen Court in Montgomery County, Maryland; and The Independence Youth Court in Independence, Missouri. The researchers evaluated the youth via four treatment groups, which were not randomly assigned due to the many variations of each particular teen court program. This study was the first of its kind to compare the four specific youth court models. According to the Butts et al. the outcome comparisons are difficult to compare due to the variations of each youth court model employed. A quasi-experimental design was used to build a knowledge base for future teen court studies. Self administered questionnaires were completed by each adjudicated youth and their respective parent or guardian. Along with interviews, youth court files, administrative records, and any necessary police and court records that would be applicable for outcome data. More than 500 youth participated in this study. Data was collected between 2000 and 2001. Recidivism was measured at each of the four sites and was measured as “six months following the youth’s original referral to youth court” (Butts, Buck, & Coggeshall, 2002, p. 27). The recidivism rate for the Anchorage Youth Court was 6%

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38 compared 23% of the non-teen court youth (juvenile court). The Maricopa County Teen Courts experienced a 9% recidivism rate compared with 15% from comparison groups (juvenile court). The Independence Youth Court recidivism rate was 9% compared with 28% of the non-teen court youth (family court). The Montgomery County Teen Court recidivism rate was 8% compared with 4% of the non-teen court youth. According to the researchers two out of the four sites studied had a significantly lower rate of recidivism compared with the non-teen court adjudicated youth. Analysis of the results concluded that “teen courts represent a promising alternative for the juvenile justice system” (p.34). Theory Ecology of Human Development In the Ecology Of Human Development, Urie Bronfenbrenner states “to assert that human development is a product of interaction between the growing organism and its environment is to state what is almost a commonplace in behavioral science,” to be more precise, “the principle asserts that behavior evolves as a function of the interplay between person and environment, with paying special attention to the interaction between the two” (1979, p. 16). The social ecological model postulates that the progression of human development occurs when mutual exchanges transpire between the individual and the environment, which are both jointly influential within the context of their ecological systems (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). This theory is presented to explain how the ecological model and youth court can effectively deter juvenile offenders from recidivating. The importance of this theory in application of the youth court process is the interaction and interplay between the juvenile offender and environment. In this case, the crime committed evolves as a function of the interplay between: (1) the person, also known as the juvenile offender and

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39 (2) the environment, which may include but is not limited to family, peers, school, and community. What has been found in social science research practice normally does not integrate the person and environment, however, in youth court, the opposite exists. The philosophy behind youth court is to change the juvenile offenders behavior. According to Bronfenbrenner (1979), in order “to demonstrate that human development has occurred, it is necessary to establish that a change produced in the person’s conceptions and /or activities carries over to other settings and other times” (p.35). This change is evident in the juvenile offenders life when they choose, or make the decision not to reoffend because of the influences of their ecosystem. Youth court has continuously attempted to construct an environment that has symmetry and cohesiveness throughout every integral component of the youth court process. According to Heward, (2000) youth court function, philosophy and community-oriented policing efforts work particularly well together toward bringing a venue where youth and adult volunteers can work in a partnership with schools, law enforcement, and the court system. Bronfenbrenner’s theory views youths as developing within a complex system of relationships (the microsystem, mesosystems, and exosystems), which all interconnectedly affect their surrounding environment. Since the youth’s heredity joins with environmental forces to mold development, Bronfenbrenner (1998) recently characterized his perspective as a bioecological model (Berk, 2002, p.27). The Ecology Of Human Development involves the scientific study of the progressive, mutual accommodation between an active, growing human being and the changing properties of the immediate settings in which the developing person lives, as this process is affected by relations between settings, and by the larger contexts in which the settings are embedded (p.21) Human development is the process through which the growing person acquires a more extended differentiated,

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40 and valid conception of the ecological environment, and becomes motivated and able to engage in activities that reveal the properties of, sustain, or restructure that environment at levels of similar or greater complexity in form and content (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, p.27). The stage of adolescence is a peak time for youth to explore their world with newfound freedoms, ideals, and morals while at the same time they are learning to develop skills, behaviors, and attitudes that will transpire into adulthood (Godwin, Steinhart, & Fulton, 1996, p.3). “As proposed by Belsky (1981), Bronfenbrenner (1979), and Zigler (1990), the first important influence on children is the family in which children and parents are interactive members of a larger system of social institutions, such as the school, workplace, and child-care services” (Quinn & Sutphen, 1994, p.23). When connections are made between a youth, their family, friends, and community, it is apparent when they take an active interest in their environment, this can lead to the development of active ownership of ones fate. More specifically, Cohen (2001) Bemak and Keys, (2000) stated that when youth make enhanced links among their schools, families, and communities this can lead to a noticeable decrease in tribulations facing today’s youth. When this marked connection occurs and youth are an integral part of their community, schools are better equipped to address the growing problem of violence, which is an obstacle to a youth’s education. In addition, families and members of the community can take an active role in leadership when dealing with issues of violence and they can reinforce the importance of family and community life by working in conjunction with schools (Taylor & Adelman, 2000). For most youth, the stage of adolescence involves socialization, which incorporates the development of strong peer relationships through key interactions with each other (Godwin, Steinhart, & Fulton, 1996). When a juvenile is faced with such external

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41 influences as parental involvement, friends, and standing before a jury of peers can all play critical roles in defining the meaning of the immediate situation to that individual (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). Jury duty is a prime example of defining the immediate situation to the juvenile offender. When faced with their acknowledged crime, they must consequently accept or deny all imposed sanctions instantly. This social perspective of positive peer pressure has restructured the influence between interpersonal relations in the microsystem, which includes the juvenile offender and the peer jury. According to Bronfenbrenner, “the aspects of the environment that are most powerful in shaping the course of psychological growth are overwhelmingly those that have meaning to the person in a given situation” (1979, p.22). Sanctions can be used methodically as a productive psychological tool to redirect a youth on the verge. This illustration of redirection for the adjudicated youth is considered an ecological transition according to Bronfenbrenner. “An ecological transition occurs throughout the life span, it is defined as whenever a person’s position in the ecological environment is altered as the result of a change in role, setting, or both” (1979, p. 26). In addition, “every ecological transition is both a consequence and an instigator of developmental process” (1979, p. 27). Decision-Making Theory Adolescent decision-making has recently received much research attention connecting it with several aspects of adolescent development, for instance, in risk-taking behaviors (Fischhoff, Crowell, & Kipke, 1999). Many of the decisions made during adolescence have a profound impact on future behaviors, attitudes, actions, and events. According to Beyth-Marom, Austin, Fischhoff, Palmgren, and Jacobs-Quadrel (1993), adolescents from the age of 12 or 13 are comparable to adults in their ability to recognize

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42 and appraise potential consequences when engaging in risky situations. Adolescents, therefore, incorporate a decision-making process in order to realize their behavior and actions, which may have positive or negative implications on their future. Adolescents are more apt to allow social consequences, such as peer pressure, to affect their decision-making process when engaging in or avoiding situations (Beyth-Marom et al. 1999). The basic foundation to the decision-making theory involves several steps. These include recognizing that a decision has or needs to be made, considering the goals one hopes to arrive at, acknowledging the available options, determining what the potential positive and negative consequences might be for each option, determining the appeal of each outcome, appraising the likelihood of each outcome, and finally assimilating all of the aforementioned information into making the actual decision (Fischhoff et al. 1999). Simon’s decision-making theory The theory supporting adolescent decision-making stems from Simons’ (1955, 1956) work originally published almost five decades ago. Simon’s theory proposed, “due to cognitive limitations, faster decisions could be made by limiting alternatives considered and by constraining analysis” (p.4). Simon suggested that decision-making skills operate under certain constraints, time and cognitive limitation of the decision maker (1955, 1956). Both of these constraints prevent the decision-maker from judging and accounting for every possible outcome, therefore limiting their ability to make fully logical, completely rational choices (Simon, 1955, 1956; Agosto, 2002). Simon, (1979, p.42) suggested the idea of Bounded Rationality, which entails “individuals factoring problems into a modest number of variables and making decisions that appear reasonable rather than optimal”. Simon understood and accounted for the difficulties humans face when challenging decisions are to be made, whether in the context of peer pressures,

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43 work/school pressures, family pressures, or their own personal pressures, therefore these constraints are represented as bounded rationality (Simon, 1976). Simon continued this notion of factoring each problem in relation to time and cognitive limitation to establish Satisficing. Satisficing is when an individual searches for a solution to a problem or when attempts to make a decision are imperative, or more simply stated “aiming at the good when the best in incalculable” (Simon, 1955, p. 5). Satisficing allows the decision maker the ability to avoid the daunting task of searching for alternatives, when in reality there are no “apparent” choices to be instituted. This allows the decision-maker to conclude their decision-making process, at any time, when an “aspiration level” (satisficing) or “satisfaction” in the decision has been reached (Newell & Simon, 1979, p. 681). In this manner, people “satisfice”, which acts as a “stop rule” during the decision-making process, rather than “optimizing” their decision-making process (Simon, 1979, p. 4). The decision-maker simplifies all methods to reach a final, acceptable decision, based on the decision-making process. These decisions made while satisficing are not necessarily the most advantageous outcomes, and the decision maker is usually not limited to one ultimate decision (Agosto, 2002). This often provides the decision-maker with a break away from a complicated world where making an appropriate decision is essential and often expected especially during adolescence (Simon, 1955). Simon (1979, p.8) organized the decision-making steps, or as he states “the objects of rational calculation” – as: The set of optional alternatives; The relationships that determine the payoffs (“satisfactions and goal attainment”) as a function of the alternative that is chosen; and The preference orderings among payoffs.

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44 These three steps have laid the foundation for all other decision-making theories. Simons’ bounded rationality and satisficing relates to those youth who may knowingly make the wrong decision but choose to think that the outcome may still be positive and possibly rewarding. This can be deemed as a potentially positive outcome in terms of meeting peer approval, not getting caught or arrested, but if they do get caught and/or arrested then they “get off easy” via the youth court process. Decision theory perspective Simon’s Decision-Making Theory has been the inspiration for several new additions in the context of adolescent decision-making theory. One approach can be understood in terms of a cost-versus-benefit approach, where behavior is selected that capitalizes on gains, and reduces potential losses (Gordon, 1996). Byrnes (1998) along with Slovic, Lichtenstein, and Fischhoff, (1988) describe decision-making as a multifaceted cognitive method that involves several steps in component processes. According to Byrnes, (1998), Furby, and Beyth-Marom (1992), these component processes can be broken down into a sequence of four steps: Goal setting; Gathering options (to reach the goal laid out in the first step); Rank-ordering options; and Selection of the best option. According to researchers, there are several important details missing from the four-step process, but these four steps do offer a basic starting point in terms of individual choices and one’s decision-making processes (Byrnes, Miller, & Reynolds, 1999). The original intention of the four-step process was to provide researchers some direction when incorporating age differences into their decision-making studies of adolescents.

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45 According to Fischhoff (1992, p. 258), decision theory is the study of how people make and optimize their decisions. There are three interconnected components that encompass this decision theory: Normative; Descriptive; and Prescriptive. Normative decision theory develops analytical methods for recognizing optimal ways of making decisions (Fischhoff, 1992, p.258). Descriptive decision theory offers insight into how people construct their decision-making, which may deviate from optimal choices (Fischhoff, 1992, p.258). Prescriptive decision theory considers the best approach to take when making decisions, and incorporates the differences between the best choice and the actual choice made (Fischhoff, 1992, p.258). These three components were designed to assist and clarify one’s decision-making process, so the best possible choices can be made, each time a decision needs to be made. According to decision theorists, the definition of decision-making includes the method of making choices amidst opposing courses of actions (Raiffa, 1968, von Winterfeldt & Edwards, 1986, Furby & Beyth-Marom, 1992). In this particular decisionmaking perspective five steps are incorporated in the process of making a decision. The first is to identify the possible options; this includes all extraneous factors, such as peer influence, that would weigh into ones final outcome. The second step involves identifying possible consequences to each of the options; this incorporates both positive and negative choices an adolescent makes with factors from each ecosystem influencing their options. The third step evaluates the desirability of each consequence. In an adolescent’s life, this may include what their peers, and/or family, or community might

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46 think of their final decision. The fourth step assesses the possibilities of each consequence; again, this potentially takes into account all influential factors in an adolescent’s life. The fifth and final step combines all previous steps in order to reach some “decision rule” with the end result being to choose the “best” decision (Furby et al. 1992, p.5). In essence, whether an adolescent chooses a risky or non-risky action, it is rational if the choice reflects the relevant values and beliefs linked with the decision maker within the context of their ecosystem (Beyth-Marom et al. 1993, p.549). Theory of adolescent decision making According to Gordon (1996, p.576) this theory of adolescent decision-making is a general overview, which may be used in any context in relation to adolescents and may be generalized to any age. This particular decision-making theory is comprised of three essential components: The cognitive component, which pertains to the cerebral process of knowing; The social and psychological components, which function similarly to Bronfenbrenner’s ecosystem, but on a smaller scale; and The cultural and societal components, which incorporates the larger scale perspective of the ecosystem (Gordon, 1996, p. 569). This theory does not incorporate any specific decision-making stages or steps; it simply includes all contributing factors that weigh into an adolescent decision-making process. Each component factors into each specific stage in the decision-making process. Along this continuum, Scott, (2000) affirms that developmental pressures directly affect an adolescent’s decision-making process, which result in different methods of reaching a decision based on maturity level (Woolard, Fondacaro, & Slobogin, 2001). In Belotti v. Baird, Justice Powell addresses the issue of a minor’s rights, “during the formative years of childhood and adolescence, minors often lack the experience,

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47 perspective, and judgment to recognize and avoid choices that could be detrimental to them” (Davis, Scott, Wadlington, & Whitebread, 1997, p. 195-196). In the youth court process, adolescents are perceived as having the ability to affectively change their negative behaviors, attitudes, and influences through the power of positive peer pressure. Youth Court and Decision Making There are certain factors within the context of an adolescent’s life that influence their decisions; one factor is the level of maturity of judgment (Fried & Reppucci, 2001; Steinberg & Cauffman, 1996). According to Steinberg et al. (1996, p.253), maturity of judgment incorporates three dimensions: Responsibility: “being self reliant and having a healthy sense of autonomy”; Perspective: “taking the long-term view and concern for others; and Temperance: “being able to limit impulsivity and exercise self-control. Youth court incorporates each of these three dimensions into their practice and philosophy. Youth court provides the opportunity for taking responsibility for ones actions to remedy a situation; it also offers the youth the prospect of an insightful look into potential future decisions, if they choose recidivism over redemption. The youth court process, as a whole, provides a platform for juvenile offenders to empathize with other offenders, victims, and their community. Temperance can be exercised at any time during the youth court process, whether the juvenile offender chooses to limit his or her impulsivity and exercise self-control is completely dependent on their own self-determination to redeem themselves, rather than recidivating. Each of these components works independently on several different levels of the youth court process, and also collectively to positively influence the offender in the appropriate law-abiding direction.

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48 According to Agosto, (2002, p. 18) “little research has specifically considered young people, bounded rationality, and satisficing”. Although, several studies have incorporated information seeking behaviors and adolescents, the researching authors did not purposely relate Simon’s theory to their study participants and their use of satisficing behaviors (Agosto, 2002). Simon’s theory has not been rigorously tested in relation to adolescent decision-making or in relation to decision-making and juvenile crime (Agosto, 2002). Byrnes, Miller, and Reynolds (1999) suggest for future studies on adolescent decision-making to focus on what adolescents do prior to reaching a decision, rather than focusing on what happens after the decision has been put into practice. According to Fried et al. (2001, p. 46-47), “adolescent decision-making has not been studied in relation to decisions that lead to criminal activity”. Scott, Reppucci, and Woolard (1995, p.225) address the issue of indirect evidence, in numerous studies, of adolescents being competent decision makers within the legal context. Scott et al, (1995, p. 225) further this issue by including the problems with adolescent decision-making studies, “they often focus on decisions that are not legally relevant (e.g., career decision-making, computer simulation) whereas other studies have focused on particular behaviors (e.g., smoking, taking drugs) and examine antecedents and predictors of engaging in the behavior, but do not examine the decision process per se”. In order to understand adolescent decision-making, we must take into account all of these different factors associated with decision-making skills and abilities when studying adolescent decision-making. Societal, community, peer and family effects all need to be taken into consideration when re-adjusting sanctions and possibly the youth court process to meet the needs of juvenile offenders. It is only by looking at the context of the

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49 decision-making process that we can truly understand and incorporate the juvenile offenders needs into the youth court system, potentially reducing recidivism even further.

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CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY The following study was designed to examine the perspective of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding the overall effectiveness of the youth court process. It will further explore the offenders (Trial and Arbitration) varying perceptions regarding the specific stages of the youth court process. It will investigate whether a specific stage had more impact than others. My study will examine perceptions of juvenile offenders regarding the impact of internal peers (working internal to the youth court process) during the youth court process. It will also explore perceptions held by juvenile offenders regarding the impact of external peers (friends). This examination of the impact of internal and external peers will also explore whether perceptions vary by Trial and Arbitration offenders. Last, my study will examine the differences in perceptions of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding their decision about getting into trouble. This survey was administered by the PBCYC Juvenile First Offender Officers at several locations within the Palm Beach County Youth Court program, including: The Juvenile Assessment Center located in West Palm Beach, Florida; The Gun Club Courthouse located in West Palm Beach, Florida; The South County Courthouse located in Delray Beach, Florida; and The Community Court also located in West Palm Beach, Florida. My study employed a cross-sectional design to investigate several characteristics of youth court. According to Kumar (1999, p.81) “this design is best suited to studies aimed 50

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51 at finding out the prevalence of a phenomenon, situation, problem, attitude or issue, by taking a cross-section of the population”. Purpose and Objectives The purpose of my study is to examine the perspective of juvenile offenders in the different stages of the youth court process regarding the impact of youth court on their decision-making. It will specifically explore the youth court process in relation to peer influence within the context of the ecological model in an attempt to assess the connections of the juvenile offender to various ecological layers. It hopes to determine what impact internal and external peer influence has on the juvenile offender’s commitment to avoid getting into trouble. The objectives of my study are as follows: Explore the differences in the perspective of juvenile offenders regarding the overall program (youth court process) effectiveness. Explore which stage(s) of the youth court process most affect a juvenile offenders decision-making process. Explore whether peer influence (internal and external) affected a juvenile offenders decision-making process. Explore differences in the perspective of juvenile offenders processed in Trial and Arbitration regarding their decision about getting into trouble. Population The sample for my study consisted of a group of approximately 200 youth court participants (N=189) who elected to participate in my study while in the Palm Beach County Youth Court Program. Two hundred and thirty one research participants were approached to complete the survey; therefore the attrition rate was 18%. The total participant population consisted of 63 female and 123 male youth court offenders. Sample size was determined based on the amount of offenders processed through the

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52 Trial and Arbitration Programs of the PBCYC program. The study was conducted from May 1, 2003 until July 31, 2003. Survey Instrument The Youth Court Decision-Making Process Survey was designed or modeled after several previously published surveys relating to youth court and juvenile justice offenders. These instruments are the First Offender Risk Assessment Index (FORAI), by Sutphen and Risler (1991) and the Evaluation of Teen Courts (ETC) Project Self-Administered Questionnaire (SAQs) by Butts, Buck, and Coggeshall, (2002). Two separate studies, which measured impulsivity, were used as models to determine juvenile offenders perspective on their decision-making process regarding peer influence and their commitment to avoid getting into trouble. These instruments are the Barratt Impulsivity Index (Barratt, 1959; Bachorowski & Newman, 1985) and the NEO Personality Inventory by Costa and McCrae (1985). These prior studies attempted to include each layer of the ecological model in respect to a juvenile offenders life, however, they did not explore the decision-making process. Consequently, a new instrument was designed for my study to measure: The effectiveness of the youth court system; The effectiveness of each essential stage within the youth court system; The effectiveness of internal and external peer influence within the youth court system; and The decision-making process of juvenile offenders regarding peer influence and their commitment to avoid getting into trouble. The study was conducted using one primary questionnaire with six separate parts for juvenile offenders. It was hoped that an opportunity to collect data from second offenders would present itself; therefore, an additional block of questions pertaining to

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53 second offenders was added to the primary questionnaire. These specific survey parts will be discussed further in the offender background section. Offender Background In demographic part of the survey, individuals were asked a series of questions regarding age, sex, grade level, ethnicity/race, residence, first offense, age at time of first arrest, arresting agency for first offense, town where the juvenile offender was arrested, the JFOOs name, location of trial or arbitration process for first offense, and, if applicable, the JFOOs name for second offense, type of second offense committed, town where the juvenile offender was arrested for the second offense, age at time of second arrest, and the arresting agency for second offense. Youth Court Decision-Making Process Survey In Part I of the survey, questions pertained to the youth court process as a whole, and how it affected the juvenile offender. Part II contains questions pertained to the stages of the youth court process. The youth court stages include the following: intake process, phone call to the parent or guardian, conference, trial or arbitration process, and peer-jury imposed sanction process. Individuals were asked a series of questions pertaining to their own youth court experience. Part III contains questions regarding the effectiveness of internal peer influence, which includes the peer jury, student attorneys, clerks, bailiffs, arbitration panel members, and victims (if applicable). Part IV was used to explore external peer influence. Part V contains questions regarding the juvenile offenders decision-making process. Subject responses were recorded using a 5-point Likert Scale that ranged from strongly disagree to strongly agree.

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54 Data Collection The instrument was administered to a convenient sample of Trial and Arbitration offenders of the Palm Beach County Youth Court program. A total of 231 surveys were administered to offenders processed between May 1, 2003 and July 31, 2003. Of these surveys, 189 were collected and analyzed (N=189). All participation in this survey was completely voluntary. The survey was conducted by way of a paper and pencil battery in a separate room, adjacent to the courtroom. JFOO’s gave directions to participants with only the juvenile offender in the room, they informed the participants that they were available to answer any questions and would be located just outside of the room. This was done to ensure fair and impartial responses from each juvenile offender. There were no time constraints imposed on the participants while completing the survey. The surveys were collected by the JFOO’s upon completion. Data were collected from the participants immediately following the Trial or Arbitration stage of the Youth Court process. Only those juvenile offenders who returned parent consent forms and personal consent forms were used as research participants of the selected convenient sample for my study. Surveys were eliminated from data analyses if participants elected not to complete all five sections of the survey, in which case completed sections were included in the analyses and incomplete sections were not. Data Analysis All survey data were entered and examined using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences for Windows Release 11.0 (SPSS, 2002). Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the demographic questions. Percentages and Frequencies were intended to develop a detailed summary of the population. The study used two specific sets of independent variables and one dependent variable. One specific set of independent

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55 variables are internal peer influence, which includes all peer influence within the context of the youth court system and external peer influence, which includes the juvenile offenders social network of peers. The second set of independent variables are the two specific programs used in the PBCYC program the Trial Program and the Arbitration Program. The dependent variable is the commitment to avoid getting into trouble. To test the hypotheses, Independent Samples T-Tests were employed. The assumptions for Independent Samples T-Test include: independent random samples; normal distribution; and same population variance (SPSS Base 11.0 User’s Guide, 2001). According to Smith and Glass (1987, p. 65), “a T-test is one method testing the statistical significance of the difference in two means”. Independent Samples T-Tests were used to ascertain the differences in means between Trial and Arbitration offenders. More specifically, it was utilized to compare the differences or similarities in Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders for each of the following: Perceptions regarding overall program effectiveness; Perceived effect of specific youth court process stages on their decision to stay out of trouble; Perceptions of internal peers during the process; The influence of external peers; and Perceptions of their decision regarding getting into trouble. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was employed to test differences of juvenile offenders by age. The assumptions for the ANOVA are as follows: samples were randomly selected; independent samples; populations are normally distributed; and homogeneity of variance exists (Agresti & Finlay, 1997).

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56 ANOVA was used to ascertain the differences by individual age of offender and how they responded to each survey item. Tukey’s honestly significant difference test was employed for post hoc results. An alpha level of .05 was set a priori .

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CHAPTER 4 RESULTS The primary purpose of my study was to examine the perspective of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding the overall effectiveness of the youth court process. It explored the offenders (Trial and Arbitration) varying perceptions regarding the specific stages of the youth court process. It investigated whether a specific stage had more impact than others and whether this stage varied by Trial and Arbitration. My study examined perceptions of juvenile offenders regarding the impact of internal peers during the youth court process. It also explored perceptions held by juvenile offenders regarding the impact of external peers. This examination of the impact of internal and external peers also explored whether perceptions vary by Trial and Arbitration offenders. Last, my study examined the differences in perceptions of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding their decision about getting into trouble. Descriptive Results Before discussing the synoptic analyses of each research question and hypothesis, which were established in Chapter 1, a brief description of the participant population will be discussed. The demographic characteristics of the youth court participants were included in the content analysis. Upon completion of collecting all data, it was necessary to eliminate several surveys due to incomplete items. The final number of participants included in this research study was 189 (n=189). However, due to some incomplete survey responses, not all frequencies total 189. A further breakdown of the demographic characteristics of my study can be examined in Table 4-1. 57

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58 Table 4-1. Participant profile for the decision-making process survey. Demographic Characteristics Frequency Valid Percentage Gender (N=186) Male 123 66.1 Female 63 33.3 Age (N=187) 10 2 1.1 11 10 5.3 12 9 4.8 13 16 8.6 14 33 17.6 15 40 21.4 16 40 21.4 17 32 17.1 18 5 2.7 Education (N=187) 3rd Grade 1 .5 4th Grade 1 .5 5th Grade 5 2.7 6th Grade 7 3.8 7th Grade 12 6.5 8th Grade 20 10.8 9th Grade 50 26.9 10th Grade 28 15.1 11th Grade 32 17.2 12th Grade 18 9.7 GED 1 .5 Dropped Out 3 1.6 Home Schooled 2 1.1 Graduated 6 3.2 Ethnic Origin (N=184) African American 21 11.1 Asian 2 1.1 Black Hispanic 10 5.3 Hispanic or Latino 30 16.3 Pacific Islander 1 .5 White Hispanic 7 3.8 White Non-Hispanic 102 55.4 Other 11 5.8 Note. The number (N) may vary due to missing values or responses from the research participants. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.

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59 Gender According to the respondents, more than half of the population was male (66.1%), which accounted for 123 of the 186 respondents, while one third were female (33.3%), which comprised the remaining 63 respondents. The gender breakdown for my study is consistent with the Palm Beach County Youth Court Programs’ gender population breakdown for the past three years (2001-2003). Two percent of the sampled population did not answer this question, and therefore, were not included in these analyses. Age and Education Another significant demographic this survey gleaned was the age of each participant who completed the survey. Age is a significant factor for this survey and the PBCYC Program when considering the cognitive, social, and criminal capabilities of each survey respondent. The participant mean age was fifteen (14.88) and the average grade for respondents was the ninth grade. A breakdown of each age group and grade level of the youth court respondents is captured in Table 4-2. Table 4-2. Age group and grade level of respondents. Mean Median Mode SD Minimum Maximum Age of participants Surveyed (N=187) 14.88 15.00 15 1.79 10 18 Grade of participants Surveyed (N=186) 9.66 9.00 9 2.29 3 16 Note. Grade of Participants ranged from third grade (3) to Graduated from high school (16). Ethnicity The majority of respondents self-reported that they were White Non-Hispanic (54%), 16% self reported as Hispanic or Latino, followed by African American (11%),

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60 Black Hispanic (5%), White Hispanic (4%), Asian American (1%), and Pacific Islander (1%). Only 6% considered themselves of some other ethnicity outside of the surveys predefined ethnic parameters. Program The participants of my study were asked to identify the division that they were assigned to in the Youth Court Program, either Trial or Arbitration, as well as whether they were referred to the Program as either a Juvenile First Offender (JFO) (Trial Program) or by the State Attorney’s Office (SAO) (Arbitration Program). Slightly less than half of all respondents were in Arbitration (48%), and the remaining portion of respondents were assigned to the Trial Program (38%). Approximately 14% did not respond to this question (Table 4-3). The direct referral analysis found that 54% of the participants were referred to Youth Court through the State Attorney’s Office, while 46% entered the Program because the were identified as a Juvenile First Offender. Table 4-3. Program and direct referral breakdowns. Frequency Valid Percent Program (N=163) Trial 72 38.1% Arbitration 91 48.1% Direct Referral (N=189) Juvenile First Offender 87 46.0% State Attorney’s Office 102 54.0% Note. The number (N) may vary due to missing values or responses from the research participants. Analysis of Research Questions The Youth Court Decision-Making Process Survey was divided into five separate sections with each section corresponding to a particular research question of my study.

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61 The research participants were asked to rate their responses using a five-point Likert scale. This scale ranged from (1) “Strongly Disagree” to (5) “Strongly Agree”. Cronbach’s alpha was used to measure the reliability of the Youth Court Decision-Making Process Survey. Cronbach’s alpha “measures how well a set of items (or variables) measure a single unidimensional latent construct, essentially it is a coefficient of reliability (or consistency)” (UCLA Academic Technology Services: SPSS FAQ, 2003). An alpha level of .78 was measured accounting for 48 cases and 60 items. According to the UCLA Academic Technology Services (SPSS FAQ, 2003) “a reliability coefficient of .80 or higher is considered as ‘acceptable’ in most Social Science applications” (UCLA Academic Technology Services: SPSS FAQ, 2003). Research question 1. Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding overall youth court program effectiveness? The purpose of this question was to see if there were differences in the perspective of the Trial offenders compared with the Arbitration offenders in terms of the youth court process. The perspective of a Trials Program juvenile offender was found to be similar (t= -.651, df = 153, p=. 516) to the perspective of an Arbitration Program juvenile offender regarding the effectiveness of the youth court process. Independent Samples T-Tests were administered to determine if there were any significant differences between Trial and Arbitration offenders (Table 4-4). The overall mean score for the Trials Program (N=67) was 3.92, whereas the Arbitration Program (N=88) was 3.98. There is no evidence to say these standard deviations of the two groups (Trial SD=.626, Arb SD=.503) are statistically different.

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62 Table 4-4. Trial and arbitration overall mean score for research question 1: Is the perspective of a trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an arbitration juvenile offender regarding overall youth court program effectiveness? N Mean SD Std. Error Mean Trial 67 3.92 .626 .076 Arbitration 88 3.98 .503 .054 Results in this section relate to participants responses regarding perception items related to overall program effectiveness. Independent Samples T-Tests were administered for each item of this section in order to determine whether there are any significant differences between perceptions of Trial and Arbitration offenders. Individual mean scores and standard deviations for each item relating to Research Question 1 are shown in Table 4-5. The results of this Independent Samples T-Test revealed that the perceptions of the Trial offenders compared to the perceptions of Arbitration offenders were not statistically different. Table 4-5. Trial and arbitration program effectiveness in relationship to the youth court process. Part I Mean SD Trial Arb. Trial Arb. Going through the whole youth court process was a waste of time? 4.30 4.34 1.05 0.99 Going through youth court makes me think about my future? 4.34 4.32 0.95 1.03 I wish I had gone to regular court, rather than youth court? 1.35 1.31 0.89 0.78 I will never get into serious trouble again? 4.26 4.49 1.28 0.97 What I got arrested for wasn’t really that serious? 3.55 3.44 1.23 1.33 It was unfair that I had to go through youth court? 4.11 4.24 1.15 0.92 I will never get arrested again? 4.11 4.44 1.32 0.94 It was worth getting into trouble to have fun? 4.61 4.48 1.05 0.98 Going through youth court makes me not want to get arrested again? 4.06 4.32 1.52 1.26 The whole youth court experience has made me think about my future? 4.45 4.41 1.06 0.93

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63 Research question 2. Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding specific stages of the youth court process on their decision to stay out of trouble? The purpose of this question was to examine the similarities or differences in offender perceptions regarding the specific youth court process stages on their decision to stay out of trouble. The perspective of a Trials Program juvenile offender appears to be comparable (t= .986, df = 158, p= .326) to the perspective of an Arbitration Program juvenile offender regarding similar perceptions of specific stages of the youth court process. Independent Samples T-Tests were administered to determine if there are any significant differences between Trial and Arbitration offenders (Table 4-6). The overall mean score for the Trials Program (N=71) was 4.28, whereas the Arbitration Program (N=89) was 4.14. Table 4-6. Trial and arbitration overall mean score for research question 2: Is the perspective of a trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an arbitration juvenile offender regarding specific stages of the youth court process on their decision to stay out of trouble? N Mean SD Std. Error Mean Trial 71 4.28 .934 .111 Arbitration 89 4.14 .900 .095 Results in this section relate to Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders responses regarding their perspectives relating to the impact of specific youth court process stages on their decision to stay out of trouble. Independent Samples T-Tests were administered for each item, related to Research Question 2, to determine if there were significant

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64 differences between Trial and Arbitration offenders. Individual mean scores and standard deviations for each survey item related to this research question are shown in Table 4-7. The results of this Independent Samples T-Test revealed that there were no significant differences in the perceptions of Trial or Arbitration offenders. Table 4-7. Trial and arbitration juvenile offenders perspective on youth court stages. Part II Mean SD Trial Arb. Trial Arb. The experience of getting arrested will affect my decision to stay out of trouble? 4.35 4.28 1.07 1.15 The experience of going through the arresting process (finger printing) will affect my decision to stay out of trouble? 4.19 4.23 1.10 1.17 The experience of going through the Juvenile Assessment Center will affect my decision to stay out of trouble? 4.26 4.01 1.09 1.07 The experience of having the JFOO call my parent(s) or guardian(s) will affect my decision to stay out of trouble? 4.31 3.98 1.07 1.15 The experience of the conference with my parent(s), JFOO, and me will affect my decision to stay out of trouble? 4.34 4.11 1.10 1.08 The experience of having my parents go through the youth court process with me will affect my decision to stay out of trouble? 4.36 4.26 1.06 1.02 The experience of admitting my guilt to my peers will affect my decision to stay out of trouble? 4.16 4.09 1.17 1.15 The experience of receiving the peer jury sanctions for the crime I committed will affect my decision to stay out of trouble? 4.25 N/A 1.05 1.05 The experience of receiving the Arb. Panel sanctions for the crime I committed will affect my decision to stay out of trouble? N/A 3.99 N/A 1.03 The experience of completing sanctions will affect my decision to stay out of trouble? 4.19 4.09 1.07 1.05 The experience of the whole youth court process will affect my decision to stay out of trouble? 4.38 4.30 1.03 0.96 Research question 3. Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding the perception of internal peers (youth court volunteers) during the youth court process? The purpose of this question was to examine the similarities or differences in the perspective of the Trial offenders compared with the Arbitration offenders regarding

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65 internal peer influence. Independent Samples T-Tests were administered to determine if there were any significant differences between Trial and Arbitration offenders (Table 4-8) and internal peer influence. The overall mean score for the Trials Program (N=71) was 3.76, whereas the Arbitration Program (N=77) was 3.74. The perspective of a Trials Program juvenile offender appears to be similar to the perspective of an Arbitration Program juvenile offender regarding peer influence. The results of the Independent Samples T-Test revealed that there were significant differences in the perceptions of Trial and Arbitration offenders regarding internal peer influence (t= .174, df = 146, p= .862). There is no evidence to state that the means of these two groups are significantly different. Table 4-8. Trial and arbitration overall mean score for research question 3: Is the perspective of a trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an arbitration juvenile offender regarding the perception of internal peers during the youth court process? N Mean SD Std. Error Mean Trial 71 3.76 .709 .084 Arbitration 77 3.74 .709 .081 Results in this section relate to Trial and Arbitration juvenile offender responses regarding their perceptions on the effects of internal peer influence. Independent Samples T-Tests were administered for each item related to Research Question 3 to determine if there were significant differences. Individual mean scores and standard deviations for each item relating to this research question are shown in Table 4-9. The results of this Independent Samples T-Test revealed that the perspective of Trial offenders compared with Arbitration offenders were not significantly different.

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66 Table 4-9. Trial and arbitration juvenile offender perspectives regarding internal peer influence. Part III Mean SD Trial Arb. Trial Arb. The kids working in youth court really understand me? 3.58 3.66 1.11 1.15 The kids working in youth court are just like me? 3.07 3.27 1.27 1.26 The peer jury doesn’t know what they are doing? 3.86 3.80 1.13 1.20 The kids working in youth court help me think about my future? 3.87 3.70 1.13 1.20 The kids working in youth court treat me fairly? 3.92 4.00 1.00 1.02 The kids working in youth court have no idea of what they are doing? 4.04 3.88 1.04 1.07 Being tried by a student attorney is a waste of time? 3.87 3.85 1.20 1.16 The student attorney really understood me? 3.67 3.61 1.08 1.13 The Arbitration panel kids don’t know what they are doing? N/A 3.88 N/A 1.15 The Arbitration panel kids helped me think about my future? N/A 3.72 N/A 1.18 Research question 4. Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding the influence of external peers (friends)? The purpose of this question was to examine the similarities or differences in the perspective of the Trial offenders compared with the Arbitration offenders regarding the influence of external peers. Independent Samples T-Tests were administered to determine if there were any significant differences between Trial and Arbitration offenders (Table 4-10). The overall mean score for the Trials Program (N=71) was 3.64, whereas the Arbitration Program (N=91) was 3.50. The perspective of a Trials Program juvenile offender appears to be similar to the perspective of an Arbitration Program juvenile offender regarding external peer influence. The results of the Independent Sample T-Test revealed that there are no significant differences in the perspective of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding external peer influence (t= 1.417, df= 160, p= .158).

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67 Table 4-10. Trial and arbitration overall mean score for research question 4: Is the perspective of a trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an arbitration juvenile offender regarding the influence of external peers? N Mean SD Std. Error Mean Trial 71 3.64 .668 .079 Arbitration 91 3.50 .615 .064 Independent Samples T-Tests were administered for each item related to Research Question 4 to determine if there were significant differences between Trial and Arbitration offenders. Individual mean scores and standard deviations for each item relating to this research question are shown in Table 4-11. The results of this Independent Samples T-Test revealed that the perspective of Trial offenders compared with Arbitration offenders were not significantly different. Table 4-11. Trial and arbitration juvenile offender perspectives regarding external peer influence. Part IV Mean SD Trial Arb Trial Arb My friends think it’s cool when I get in trouble. 4.34 4.01 1.02 1.16 My friends think youth court is a joke. 3.86 3.76 1.22 1.28 I get into a lot of trouble with my friends. 4.30 3.82 1.02 1.30 I got arrested because of my friends. 3.47 3.49 1.56 1.52 My friends tried to stop me from getting into trouble. 2.32 2.83 1.44 1.34 Most of my friends have gone through youth court before. 3.80 3.54 1.26 1.25 My friends take youth court very seriously. 3.36 3.38 1.25 1.18 My friends drink alcohol. 4.00 3.61 1.30 1.35 My friends smoke pot. 3.99 3.59 1.29 1.38 Most of my friends have gotten arrested before. 4.06 3.69 1.19 1.16 Good grades are important to my friends. 3.75 3.63 1.22 1.15 My friends never get in trouble at school. 2.72 2.87 1.11 1.07 My friends think that going through youth court is easy. 3.33 3.22 1.07 0.99 Research question 5. Is the perspective of a trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an arbitration juvenile offender regarding their decision about getting into trouble?

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68 The purpose of this question was to examine the similarities or differences in the perspective of the Trial offenders compared with the Arbitration offenders regarding their decision about getting into trouble. Independent Samples T-Tests were administered to determine if there were any significant differences between Trial and Arbitration offenders (Table 4-12). The overall mean score for the Trials Program (N=71) was 3.43, whereas the Arbitration Program (N=91) was 3.42. The perspective of a Trials Program juvenile offender appears to be similar to the perspective of an Arbitration Program juvenile offender regarding their decision-making process about getting into trouble. The results of the Independent Samples T-Test revealed that there were no significant differences in the perceptions of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding their decision about getting into trouble (t= .103, df = 160, p= .915). There is no evidence to state that the means of these two groups are significantly different. Table 4-12. Trial and arbitration overall mean score for research question 5: Is the perspective of a trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an arbitration juvenile offender regarding their decision about getting into trouble? N Mean SD Std. Error Mean Trial 71 3.43 .556 .066 Arbitration 91 3.42 .455 .048 Results in this section relate to the perspective of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders in regard to their decision about getting into trouble. Independent Samples T-Tests were administered for each item related to Research Question 5 to determine if there were significant differences between Trial and Arbitration offenders. Individual mean scores and standard deviations for each item relating to this research question are shown in Table 4-13. The results of this Independent Samples T-Test revealed that the

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69 perspective of Trial offenders compared with Arbitration offenders were not significantly different. Table 4-13. Trial and arbitration juvenile offender perspectives regarding their decision about getting into trouble. Part V Mean SD Trial Arb. Trial Arb My friends let me make my own decisions when we are thinking about doing something that may get us into trouble. 3.68 3.77 1.24 1.32 My friends make fun of me when I don’t want to do what the rest of the group decides to do. 3.94 3.73 1.07 1.27 My friends support me in my decisions about getting into trouble. 2.70 3.01 1.34 1.33 My friends respect the decisions that I make about whether to do things that may get me into trouble. 3.09 3.36 1.33 1.27 My friends influence my decision about whether to do something that will get me into trouble. 3.35 3.24 1.12 1.34 Before I decide to do something that may get me into trouble, I always consider what the consequences may be. 3.50 3.46 1.16 1.20 Before I think about doing something that may get me into trouble, I think all the way through my actions to the possible outcomes. 3.19 3.23 1.22 1.11 Before I think about doing something that may get me into trouble, I think about the possibility of getting arrested. 3.37 3.37 1.29 1.22 Before I think about doing something that may get me into trouble, I think about what the punishment might be. 3.59 3.48 1.27 1.17 Some of the things that I have done on impulse, I have later regretted doing. 4.26 4.09 1.02 1.07 Sometimes I think before I act when I am about to do something that may get me into trouble. 3.63 3.59 1.08 1.05 Sometimes I just do what I feel like doing even if I am going to get in trouble for it. 3.45 3.17 1.26 1.26 When I get in trouble, I act on impulse. 2.89 2.94 1.16 1.15 When I get in trouble, I am deciding on the spur of the moment.2.72 2.91 1.17 1.16 I always take my time making a decision when I am thinking about doing something that may get me in trouble. 3.01 3.17 1.19 1.14 I don’t care whether I get into trouble; I am going to do what I want anyway. 4.37 4.18 0.95 1.09 Analyses of Hypotheses Hypothesis 1. No significant difference between trial and arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of overall effectiveness of the youth court process.

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70 According to the results of the Independent Samples T-Test, the evidence supports that the null hypothesis is accepted (t= -.651, p= .516). It is evident that there were no significant differences between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders perceptions regarding the overall effectiveness of the youth court process (Table 4-14). Table 4-14. Independent samples t-test for perceived overall effectiveness of the youth court process. Program N Mean SD t df Sig (2 tailed) Trial 67 3.92 .626 Arbitration 88 3.98 .503 t-test for differences -.651 153 .516 in overall effectiveness Note. P< .05 Hypothesis 2. No significant difference between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of effectiveness of youth court process stages on their decision to stay out of trouble. According to the results of the Independent Samples T-Test, the evidence supports that the null hypothesis is accepted (t= .986, p= . 326). It is evident that there were no significant differences between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceived effectiveness of youth court process stages on their decision to stay out of trouble (Table 4-15). Table 4-15. Independent samples t-test for differences between perceived effectiveness of youth court stages on their decision to stay out of trouble. Program N Mean SD t df Sig (2 tailed) Trial 71 4.28 .934 Arbitration 89 4.14 .900 t-test for differences on perceived .986 158 .326 effectiveness of youth court process stages Note. P< .05

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71 Hypothesis 3. No significant difference between trial and arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of internal peers during the youth court process. According to the results of the Independent Samples T-Test, the evidence supports that the null hypothesis is accepted (t= .174, p= .862). It is evident that there were no significant differences between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceived internal peer influence during the youth court process (Table 4-16). Table 4-16. Independent samples t-test for differences between trial and arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of internal peers during the youth court process. Program N Mean SD t df Sig (2 tailed) Trial 71 3.76 .709 Arbitration 77 3.74 .709 t-test for differences in .174 146 .862 perceived internal peer influence Note. P< .05 Hypothesis 4. No significant difference between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of external peer influence. According to the results of the Independent Samples T-Test, there is evidence to state that the null hypothesis is rejected (t= 1.417, p= .158). I It is evident that there were no significant differences between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on their perceived external peer influence (Table 4-17). Table 4-17. Independent samples t-test for differences between trial and arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of external peer influence. Program N Mean SD t df Sig (2 tailed) Trial 71 3.64 .668 Arbitration 91 3.50 .615 t-test for differences in 1.417 160 .158 perceived external peer influences Note. P< .05

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72 Hypothesis 5. No significant difference between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of their decision regarding getting into trouble. According to the results of the Independent Samples T-Test, the evidence supports that the null hypothesis is accepted (t= .106, p= .915). It is evident that there were no significant differences between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding their decision regarding getting into trouble (Table 4-18). Table 4-18. Independent samples t-test for differences between trial and arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of their decisions regarding getting into trouble. Program N Mean SD t df Sig (2 tailed) Trial 71 3.43 .556 Arbitration 91 3.42 .455 t-test for differences in their .106 160 .915 decision regarding getting into trouble Note. P< .05 Analysis of Variance Conducting Oneway Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) to determine the programs’ impact via age and individual survey items data analyses indicated several significant relationships. Tukey’s HSD method was used to test all possible pairwise comparisons between age and the means of individual survey items. ANOVA and Tukey’s HSD post hoc results compared all ages against one another. As presented in Table 4-19, all significant survey items are shown with corresponding age breakdowns.

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73 Table 4-19. Age by number for each significant survey item. Age x N 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Part II, Item 6 2 10 9 13 33 39 36 32 5 Part II, Item 7 2 10 7 13 33 39 36 32 5 Part IV, Item 8 2 10 8 15 33 40 38 32 5 Part IV, Item 9 2 10 8 15 33 40 39 32 5 Part V, Item 6 2 9 7 15 33 39 39 32 5 Part V, Item 7 2 9 7 15 32 39 39 32 5 Part V, Item 8 2 8 7 15 33 39 39 32 5 Part V, Item 9 2 8 7 15 33 39 39 32 5 The first significant relationship was found between age and the item assessing (Part II, item 6) “The experience of having my parents go through the youth court process with me will affect my decision to stay out of trouble” (F= 2.268, p= .025) (Table 4-20). The next significant relationship was found between age and the item assessing (Part II, item 7) “The experience of admitting my guilt to my peers will affect my decision to stay out of trouble” (F=2.094, p= .039) (Table 4-20). Table 4-20. Youth court process stages (Part II) ANOVA. Mean Square F df Sig Item 6: Age x Parents 2.473 2.268 8 .025 Item 7: Age x My Guilt 2.766 2.094 8 .039 Note. P< .05 These results pertain to age and external peer influence (Table 4-21). A significant relationship was found between age and the item (Part IV, item 8) assessing “My friends drink alcohol” (F= 2.589, p=.011). Along the same parameters, another significant relationship was found between age and an item (Part IV, item 9) assessing “My friends

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74 smoke pot” (F=3.129, p= .002) (Table 4-21). Post Hoc results revealed the differences are between fourteen and sixteen years of age (p= .048). Table 4-21. External peer influence (Part III) ANOVA. Mean Square F df Sig Item 8: Age x Alcohol 4.179 2.589 8 .011 Item 9: Age x Smoke Pot 5.013 3.129 8 .002 Note. P< .05 The remaining four significant relationships are all related to the decision-making process. These ANOVA results are displayed in Table 4-22. The first significant relationship regarding decision-making was found with item (Part V, item 6) assessing “Before I decide to do something that may get me into trouble, I always consider what the consequences may be” (F= 2.536, p= .012). Post Hoc results revealed a difference between fifteen and seventeen year olds (p= .040). The next significant relationship was found with the item (Part V, item 7) assessing “Before I think about doing something that may get me into trouble, I think all that way through my actions to the possible outcomes (F= 2.617, p= .010). Post Hoc results revealed a difference between fifteen and sixteen year olds (p= .004). Another significant relationship was found with the item (Part V, item 8) assessing “Before I think about doing something that may get me into trouble, I think about the possibility of getting arrested” (F= 2.889, p= .005). Post Hoc results revealed a difference between fifteen and sixteen year olds (p= .015). The final significant relationship was found with the item (Part V, item 9) assessing “Before I think about doing something that may get me into trouble, I think about what the punishment might be” (F= 2.174, p= .032). Post Hoc results revealed a difference between fifteen and sixteen year olds (p= .054).

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75 Table 4-22. Decision-making items (Part V) ANOVA. Mean Square F df Sig Item 6: Age x Decide 3.259 2.536 8 .012 Item 7: Age x Doing Something 3.124 2.617 8 .010 Item 8: Age x Possibility 4.047 2.889 8 .005 Item 9: Age x Punishment 2.938 2.174 8 .032 Note. P< .05 Summary The results obtained via Independent Samples T-Test and ANOVA analyses in this chapter answered these five research questions: Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding overall program effectiveness? Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding specific youth court process stages on their decision to stay out of trouble? Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding the effect of internal peers (youth court volunteers) during the youth court process? Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding the influence of external peers (friends)? and Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding their decision about getting into trouble? By answering these questions, the results communicate that overall, there appears to be no difference in which Program a juvenile offender is processed through. However, there were several significant differences found intermittently upon completion of all analyses. More specifically, these key significant differences demonstrate that parents do play a significant and critical role in their child’s decision to stay out of trouble, along with the admittance of guilt in front of the juvenile offenders’ peer group. Negative peer influences also plays a critical role by age, particularly when external peer influences

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76 involve such acts as smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. In addition, the process of decision-making and how it pertains to thinking before acting or impulsivity also demonstrated significant results when compared by age. These and other findings will be discussed further in Chapter 5.

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CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION Findings The following study was designed to examine the perspective of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding the overall effectiveness of the youth court process. It further explored varying perceptions of the offenders (Trial and Arbitration) regarding the specific stages of the youth court process. It investigated whether a specific stage had more impact than others. My study examined perceptions of juvenile offenders regarding internal peer influence (working internal to the youth court process) during the youth court process. It also explored perceptions held by juvenile offenders regarding the impact of external peers (friends) and whether perceptions vary by Trial and Arbitration offenders. Last, my study examined the differences in perceptions of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding their decision about getting into trouble. Demographic Results The youth court participant population provides many insights into the complex enclave of juvenile offenders and youth court. The majority of respondents were male (66.1%), which is characteristic of the gender analysis of Palm Beach County’s Youth Court Program. The participant mean age was fifteen (14.88), however, both fifteen (21.4%) and sixteen (21.4%) year-olds comprised approximately 43% of the total participant population. According to Synder and Bilchik (1999), the peak age for juvenile delinquency is between the ages of 15 and 17 with males perpetrating the bulk of offenses. Ninth graders (26.9%), followed by eleventh (17.2%), and tenth graders 77

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78 (15.1%) comprised the majority of grade levels with 59.2% of the total youth court participant population. The ethnic majority was comprised of White Non-Hispanics (55.4%), Hispanic or Latino origins (16.3%) represented the second largest ethnic group, and African American (11.1%) were the third largest ethnic group. The demographic characteristics of my study indicate that this participant population is consistent with the demographic characteristics of other youth court programs (Butts, et al., 2002). Research Questions Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding overall youth court program effectiveness? Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding specific stages of the youth court process on their decision to stay out of trouble? Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding the perception of internal peers (youth court volunteers) during the youth court process? Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding the influence of external peers (friends)? Is the perspective of a Trial juvenile offender similar to or different than an Arbitration juvenile offender regarding their decision about getting into trouble? Independent Samples T-Tests were used to analyze and answer each of these research questions. The two populations of interest used to analyze the data were comprised of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders. As stated previously in Chapter 1, Trial Program juvenile offenders are typically first time offenders charged with misdemeanors and/or minor non-violent felony offenses (Barnett & Easton, 2001). Arbitration Program juvenile offenders are typically referred by the State Attorney’s Office and are usually repeat offenders, or first time offenders who have committed more serious offenses than those that are in the Trial Program.

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79 Overall Effectiveness of Youth Court To determine the difference in perspective of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding the overall effectiveness of the youth court program, Part I of the survey was used to ascertain this information (See Appendix C). Even though there were no significant differences between the two groups, there were several interesting findings that are relevant to the success of the youth court process. Both Trial (M=4.34) and Arbitration (M=4.32) offenders “agree” or “strongly agree” that going through youth court made them think about their future (Part I, item 2). This finding reflects the possibility of altering the decision-making process of the juvenile offenders in order to incorporate past experiences. Another interesting perspective was how the juvenile offenders felt about going through youth court rather than through traditional juvenile court. Both Trial (M=1.35) and Arbitration (M=1.31) offenders “strongly disagree” with the statement that they wish they had gone through regular court, rather than through youth court (Part I, item 3). Both groups “agree” that they did not want to get into serious trouble again (Trial M=4.26; Arbitration M=4.49) (Part I, item 4), which is also an interesting perspective when compared to Trial (M=4.11) and Arbitration (M=4.44) offenders “agree” that they will never get arrested again (Part I, item 7). It appears that Arbitration offenders are more compelled to stay out of trouble and not get arrested again. The most significant and relevant response in this section relates to the youth court process as a whole, both Trial (M=4.45) and Arbitration (M=4.41) offenders “agree” or “strongly agree” that this experience (youth court) as a whole made them think about their future (Part I, item 10). This is a direct link to the decision-making process and how youth court may impact juvenile offenders decisions when contemplating future criminal activities.

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80 Part II of the survey was examined to ascertain these differences in the perspective of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders, regarding the effect of specific stages of the youth court process on their decision to stay out of trouble (Appendix C). Regardless of not revealing any significant differences between the Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders perspectives on specific youth court stages, there are still several key experiences within the youth court process that will be discussed further. Each of these key stages, within the youth court process, relates to how each experience affected the juvenile offenders decision to stay out of trouble. Trial (M=4.35) and Arbitration (M=4.28) offenders “agree” that getting arrested affected their decision to stay out of trouble (Part II, item 1). Parental involvement Several of the most relevant experiences cited by respondents pertain to parental involvement during the youth court process. Trial offenders agreed more strongly than Arbitration offenders on all three items regarding parental involvement during the youth court process. More specifically, Trial offenders (M=4.31) agree more strongly than the Arbitration offenders that the experience of having a Juvenile First Offender Officer (JFOO) call their parent or guardian affected them (M=3.98) (Part II, item 4). Also, Trial offenders (M=4.34) agree more strongly than Arbitration offenders (M=4.11) that the parent and JFOO conference affected their decision to stay out of trouble (Part II, item 5). The final parent stage involves the parent accompanying their youth throughout the youth court process and how this affected the youth’s decision to stay out of trouble. This impacted the Trial offenders (M=4.36) slightly more than the Arbitration offenders (M=4.26) (Part II, item 6). The most significant item in this section pertains to the youth court process as a whole and how this impacted a juvenile offenders decision to stay out

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81 of trouble (Part II, item 11). Trial (M=4.38) and Arbitration (M=4.30) offenders mutually agreed that the whole youth court experience would affect their future decisions to stay out of trouble. Parental impact is a profound factor during the stages of the youth court process, which corresponds with the juveniles Microsystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). To be more precise, “the principle of the Ecological model asserts that behavior evolves as a function of the interplay between person and environment, with paying special attention to the interaction between the two” (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, p. 16). In this instance, the juvenile offender is interacting with parental involvement during the youth court process, which has a profound impact on their decision to stay out of trouble. Peer influence To determine the difference in the perspective of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding the effect of internal peer influence during the youth court process, Part III of the survey was examined to ascertain these differences (See Appendix C). There were no significant differences between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders perspectives regarding internal peer influence, however, there were various responses that indicated a certain level of impact. These specific instances were apparent more so with Trial offenders than Arbitration offenders during the youth court process. This was evident by the responses of Trial offenders (M=3.87) and Arbitration offenders (M=3.70) regarding how peers working in youth court helped them think about their future (Part III, item 4). Comparatively, Arbitration offenders (M=3.72) agreed that the Arbitration panel peers also helped them think about their future (Part III, item 10). Interestingly, both Trial (M=3.92) and Arbitration (M=4.00) offenders felt that they were treated fairly by their peers working in youth court (Part III, item 5). Even though there were no significant differences between the two groups (Trial and Arbitration), it is still apparent

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82 that internal peer influence has some bearing on how juvenile offenders perceive fairness, understanding, and the impact of positive peer influence on future decisions. To determine the difference in perspective of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding the influence of external peers, Part IV of the survey was examined to ascertain these differences (See Appendix C). There was no significant difference between these two groups and their perspective of external peer influence, but there were several interesting responses that have bearing on external peer influence and youth court offenders. In particular, Trial offenders more frequently “agree” that their external peers (social network of peers) had more of an impact than Arbitration juvenile offenders. More specifically, Trial offender’s (M=4.35) “agree” that their friends thought it was cool when they (juvenile offender) got in trouble compared with Arbitration offenders (M=4.01) (Part IV, item 1). Another instance where Trial and Arbitration offenders differed was in relationship to their external friend’s drug and alcohol consumption. Trial offenders (M= 4.00) “agree” more frequently with the statement that their friends drink alcohol compared with Arbitration offenders (M=3.61) (Part IV, item 8). Within the same realm of peer influence, Trial offenders (M=3.99) more frequently “agree” with the statement that their friends smoke pot compared with Arbitration offenders (M=3.59) (Part IV, item 9). Decision-making To determine the differences in perspective of Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders regarding their decision about getting into trouble, Part V of the survey was examined to ascertain these differences (See Appendix C). There were no significant differences between these two groups regarding their decision about getting into trouble.

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83 There were several important outcomes, however, which are relevant to a juvenile’s decision-making process. Two interesting findings correspond with external peer influence on a juvenile offenders decision to seek trouble. It appears that Arbitration offenders (M=3.77) “agree” more often than Trial offenders (M=3.68) that their friends let them make their own decisions when they are thinking about doing something that may get them into trouble (Part V, item 1). In contrast, Trial offenders (M=3.94) “agree” more often than Arbitration offenders (M=3.73) that their friends make fun of them when they don’t do what the rest of their peer group decides to do (Part V, item 2). Both groups “agree” that some of the things they have done on impulse, they have later regretted (Trial M=4.26; Arbitration M=4.06) (Part V, item 10). The significance regarding this outcome is evident in the importance of linking and comprehending how these juveniles made these decisions, which they later regretted because of their impulsivity. According to Byrnes (2002, p. 211), “when juveniles are seeking advice they will more often seek out a friend, who is a non-expert, than seeking out someone who is an expert, but not necessarily considered a friend”. Perhaps it’s during these crucial times when peers are at-risk of seeking poor advice from their social network of friends and they vulnerable to poor decision-making choices. In several recent studies, peers have an impact on each other in relationship to risk-taking and how negative peer influence affects decision-making (Jessor, Van den Bos, & Vanderryn, et al, 1995; Miller & Byrnes, 1997; Millistein & Moscicki, 1995; Urberg, Degermencioglu, & Pilgrim, 1997). The most profound statement Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders made was in regards to getting into trouble, and doing it regardless of the final outcome. Both Trial

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84 (M=4.37) and Arbitration (M=4.18) juvenile offenders “agree” that “I don’t care whether I get into trouble, I am going to do what I want to anyway” (Part V, item 16). This lack of caring, or apathy for future ramifications is directed by the juvenile offenders immaturity to finalize the consequences of their actions. The idea of impulsivity and accountability for their actions leads many juvenile offenders to satisfice their decision-making process, which is one of the underlying principles of Simon’s decision-making theory. According to Agosto (2002, p. 17) satisficing is simply a way to “choose decision results that are good enough to suit the decision-maker’s purposes” or more simply stated the juvenile offender is satisfying their needs based on impetuousness. Hypotheses Ho1: No significant difference between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceived overall effectiveness of the youth court process. Ho2: No significant difference between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceived effectiveness of youth court process stages on their decision to stay out of trouble. Ho3: No significant difference between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of internal (youth court volunteers) peers during the youth court process. Ho4: No significant difference between Trial and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of external peer (friends) influence. Ho5: No significant difference between Trail and Arbitration juvenile offenders on perceptions of their decision regarding getting into trouble. While several hypotheses were explored in my study, no significant relationships were found. Therefore, regardless of the Program by which a juvenile offender is processed, they are still being held accountable for their actions through positive peer influence and by having their parents or guardians present during youth court process. Both of these elements in a juvenile offenders life are consistent with Bronfenbrenner’s

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85 Ecological Model that parents and peers play critical roles in a developing youths life via positive and negative influences. The stage of adolescence involves socialization, which incorporates the development of strong peer relationships through key interactions with each other (Godwin, Steinhart, & Fulton, 1996). According to Bronfenbrenner (1979, p.22), “the aspects of the environment that are most powerful in shaping the course of psychological growth are overwhelmingly those that have meaning to the person in a given situation”. Depending on the individual, this may impact the importance of a given situation and the effects of both parent and peer influence. In addition, adolescents are more apt to allow social consequences, such as peer pressure, to affect their decision-making process when engaging in or avoiding situations (Beyth-Marom et al. 1999). Regardless of not finding any significant relationships, several critical elements (which appear to be beneficial during the youth court process) emerged from the data analysis. These critical elements include: the impact of the whole youth court experience; the presence of parents or guardians; being treated fairly by youth court peers; and how youth court peers helped both Trial and Arbitration offenders think about their future. Heward (2000) has suggested that the use of positive peer pressure from peer juries in the youth court setting offers several opportunities including an immediate opportunity for accountability to take place. For positive changes to occur in the offenders’ life as a result of positive peer pressure from peer juries and for peer juries to comprehend the complexities and behaviors of the offending youth (Reichel & Seyfrit, 1984).

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86 Conversely, two significant factors contribute to negative relationships within the context of the decision-making process: (a) acting impulsively and later regretting, and (b) not caring about getting into trouble, but doing what they want to regardless of the outcome. According to Scott et al., (1995, p. 230), “the importance of peer influence to adolescent decision-making could be relevant in two ways: adolescents are more vulnerable to direct peer pressure when making choices; and the desire of peer approval when making decisions”. Youth court has affected these juvenile offenders in many ways, but the true validation of the youth court process is in the continual, life-long development of a paradigm shift in thinking, to incorporate all the steps of the decision-making process in conjunction with their direct and indirect interactions with their human ecosystems. According to Bronfenbrenner (1979, p. 35), “development implies a change that is not merely momentary or situation-specific. It is therefore not sufficient to show only that a certain variation in the environment has produced an alteration in behavior; it is also necessary to demonstrate that this change exhibits some invariance across time, place or both”. Overall, the findings from my study provide indispensable information regarding juvenile offenders. It is important to emphasize that few differences were found between Trial and Arbitration offenders, however, this indicates that regardless of the actual program in which the offenders were processed through (Trial or Arbitration) juveniles were still impacted by the youth court experience. In addition, my study has gained insight into the world of juvenile offenders, their decision-making process and how the impact of parents, peers, and the youth court process has inevitably impacted their decision to stay out of trouble in the future.

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87 Limitations The limitations associated with this present study include: The arrangement in which the data was collected; The time in which data was collected; The age of research participants; and The development of possible indifferences associated with the research participants’ attitudes towards filling out a questionnaire. Since Palm Beach County is several hours from Gainesville, it made the data collection cumbersome for the researcher. Therefore, the Youth Court Program Manager allowed for data collecting during a specific time frame and at specific youth court locations. Participants during data collection only encompassed the age ranges of 10 to 18. The researcher suggests increasing to include all youth court ages. The final limitation of my study, which is inevitable in most studies, is the attitude of the research participants. It was hoped that each research participant would answer the questionnaire honestly and accurately. Implications for Practice The present study has essential implications for researcher and practitioners. It is imperative and essential to address the decision-making process of juvenile offenders in research and practice. Simon (1979a, p.8) organized the decision-making steps, or as he states “the objects of rational calculation” as The set of optional alternatives; The relationships that determine the payoffs (“satisfactions and goal attainment”) as a function of the alternative that is chosen; and The preference orderings among payoffs.

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88 These three steps have laid the foundation for all other decision-making theories. If the youth court process incorporates the basic functions of decision-making theory, it would include the following steps: (1) setting a goal – what is the desired outcome or decision; (2) gathering all available options or alternatives – incorporating the desired goal(s) into all available choices; (3) based on the desired goal, rank ordering each option; and (4) choosing the best option in relation to the original goal. In some contexts, researchers have found that adolescents are less equipped to make informed decisions because they lack experience, knowledge, and the risks involved when associated with certain outcomes (Gardner, Herman, & Wilfong, 1991; Lewis, 1981; Scott et al. 1995; Tester, Gardner, & Wilfong, 1987). Scott et al. (1995, p.234) addressed the issue of rational decision-making within the context of personal freedoms and liberties. An adolescent will make the best choice when it supports their personal belief system. The youth court process offers juvenile offenders worldly experiences without actually causing harm, incarceration, or a criminal record. Another essential factor to include in future practice is the inclusion of each intricate layer of the juveniles’ microsystems. Such microsystems would include parents, peers, and school and the perceived and actual roles that juveniles participate in during each of these systems. The influence in a juvenile’s life is derived from their perception or interpretation of each of these factors within the microsystems (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Thomas, 2000). Recommendations for Future Research To more fully comprehend the youth court process and its influence on at-risk juvenile offenders and their decision-making process, future studies may be elaborated in several ways. The significance of linking and understanding how adolescents make

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89 decisions lies in the context of the daily challenges they face. More importantly, understanding and incorporating the juvenile offenders decision-making process into the youth court program will help to effectively expand their once limited decision-making skills making them applicable in the real world will be the greatest challenge for youth court practitioners. If youth court practitioners are to guide juvenile offenders away from recidivating, then they need to understand and incorporate the decision-making process of the juvenile offenders into the youth court system. This essential link between a juvenile offender, their decision-making process and criminal activity will benefit the juvenile offender, their peers, family, and the community at large. My study was one of the first to link decision-making with youth court juvenile offenders. In particular, one of the main purposes of my study was to explore perceptions held by juvenile offenders in regards to peer influence and their decisions about getting into trouble. After determing that parent and peer influence is an important factor in a juvenile offenders life and that it has bearing on their decision-making process is imperative to incorporate this element in future research of at-risk youth. My study has substantiated the need for future studies to incorporate the decision-making process and the intricate layers of a juveniles’ ecological environment to expound on this limited knowledge base of juvenile offenders.

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APPENDIX A INTERNAL REVIEW BOARD APPROVAL LETTERS

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APPENDIX B INFORMED CONSENT LETTERS

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Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences PO Box 110310 University of Florida Gainesville, FL 32611-0310 Consent Dear Juvenile First Offender: I am a graduate student at the University of Florida. As part of my thesis I am surveying juvenile first offenders, the purpose of which is to examine the perspective of juvenile first offenders, in the different stages of the youth court process, regarding the impact of youth court on their decision – making processes. I am asking you to participate in this interview because you have been identified as a juvenile first offender. Juvenile first offenders will be asked to participate in this study by completing a survey lasting no longer than 15 minutes. The survey of questions is enclosed with this letter. You will not have to answer any question you do not wish to answer. Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law and your identity will not be revealed in the final manuscript. There are no anticipated risks, compensation or other direct benefits to you as a participant in this study. You are free to withdraw your consent to participate and may discontinue your participation in the survey at any time without consequence. If you have any questions about this research protocol, please contact me at 392-2201 x279 or my faculty supervisor, Dr. Rose Barnett, at 392-2201. Questions or concerns about your rights as a research participant rights may be directed to the UFIRB office, University of Florida, Box 112250, Gainesville, FL 32611; ph (352) 392-0433. Please sign and return this copy of the letter in the enclosed envelope. A second copy is provided for your records. By signing this letter, you give me permission to report your responses anonymously in the final manuscript to be submitted to my faculty supervisor as part of my thesis. Kate Mulkerrin I have read the procedure described above for the Youth Court Decision-Making Process Survey. I voluntarily agree to participate in the interview and I have received a copy of this description. ____________________________ __________ Signature of participant Date 94

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95 Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences PO Box 110310 University of Florida Gainesville, FL 32611-0310 Parental Consent Dear Parent/Guardian, I am a graduate student in the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences at the University of Florida, conducting research on youth court offenders under the supervision of Dr. Rose Barnett. The purpose of this study is to examine the perspective of juvenile first offenders, in the different stages of the youth court process, regarding the impact of youth court on their decision – making processes. The results of the study may help youth court practioners and researchers better understand the amount of knowledge gained and allow them to design instructional practices accordingly. These results may not directly help your child today, but may benefit future youth court participants. With your permission, I would like to ask your child to volunteer for this research. All of the children, in this study, will be asked to fill out a survey pertaining to their specific youth court experience. The survey will also ask questions regarding their social peer network and the peers who serve on youth court. In addition, several questions will be asked pertaining to your child’s demographics offense committed, and other relevant youth court specific questions relating to the juvenile first offender officer, site of their trial or arbitration hearing, and the like. The 15-minute questionnaire will take place immediately following youth child’s trial or arbitration panel hearing during the month of April and/or May.. The children will not be asked to write their names on the questionnaires so their identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Instead we will use code numbers rather than using their names. Results will only be reported in the form of group data. Participation or nonparticipation in this study will not affect the children's youth court process or outcome in any way. You and your child have the right to withdraw consent for your child's participation at any time without consequence. There are no known risks or immediate benefits to the participants. No compensation is offered for participation. Group results of this study will be available in December upon request. If you have any questions about this research protocol, please contact me at 392-2201 X279 or my faculty supervisor, Dr. Rose Barnett, at 392-2201. Questions or concerns about your child's rights as research participant may be directed to the UFIRB office, University of Florida, Box 112250, Gainesville, FL 32611, (352) 392-0433. Kate Mulkerrin I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily give my consent for my child, _________________, to participate in Kate Mulkerrin’s study of the impact of youth court on a juvenile first offenders decision-making process. I have received a copy of this description. ____________________________ ___________ Parent / Guardian Date ____________________________ ___________ 2nd Parent / Witness Date

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APPENDIX C SURVEY INSTRUMENT

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103 Harrison, P., Maupin, J.R., & Mays, G.L. (2001). Teen court: An examination of processes and outcomes, Crime and Delinquency, 47, 243-264. Heward, M.E. (2000). Youth court: An alternative to juvenile court? Why and how youth courts are on the rise. Law-Related Education, 23, 34-36. Heward, M.E. (2002). Teen court legislation in the United States. The Newsletter of the National Youth Court Center, 2, 5-7 Hissong, R.V. (1991). Teen court: is it an effective alternative to traditional sanctions? Journal for Juvenile Justice and Detention Services, 6, 14-23. Jessor, R., Van den Bos, J., & Vanderryn, J. et al. (1995). Protective factors in adolescent problem behavior: Moderator effects and developmental change. Developmental Psychology, 31, 923-933. Klug, E. (2000). The Office Of Juvenile Justice And The Department Of Prevention establishes a youth court center, Corrections Today, 62, 21-25. Lewis, C.C. (1981). How adolescents approach decisions: Changes over grades seven to twelve and policy implications. Child Development, 52, 538-544. Lotz, R., Poole, E., & Regoli, R. (1985). Juvenile delinquency and juvenile justice. New York: Random House. Lyles, J., & Knepper, P. (1997). Teen court’s potential as a law-related education medium: The experience of Franklin County, Kentucky. In D. Williamson, K. I. Minor, and J. W. Fox (Eds.), Law-Related Education and Juvenile Justice: Promoting Citizenship Among Juvenile Offenders. (pp. 224-36 ). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas McNeece, A.P., Falconer, M. K., Bryant, C., & Shader, M. (1996). Hernando County teen court: evaluation of 1996 continuation grant activity. Florida State University, Institute for Health and Human Services Research, Tallahassee. Mennel, R. (1972). Origins of the juvenile court: changing perspective on the legal rights of juvenile delinquents. Crime and Delinquency, 18, 68-78. Miller, D.C. & Byrnes, J.P. (1997). The role of personal and contextual factors in children’s risk-taking. Developmental Psychology, 33, 814-823. Millstein, S.G., & Moscicki, A. (1995). Sexually-transmitted disease in female adolescents: effects of psychological factors and high-risk behaviors. Journal of Adolescent Health, 17, 83-90. Minor, K.I., Wells, J.B., Soderstrom, I.R., Bingham, R., & Williamson, D. (1999). Sentence completion and recidivism among juveniles referred to teen courts. Crime and Delinquency, 45, 467-481.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Kathleen Holly Morgan Mulkerrin was born and raised in Norwell, Massachusetts. She excelled early in life in sports, particularly running and swimming. In the fall of 1995, Kate began her college career at the University of Alabama. She immediately fell in love with the “Deep South.” While attending the University of Alabama, she was actively involved in University Church of Christ’s campus ministries program. During the winter of 1997, Kate was baptized into Christ and has continued to develop her personal relationship with her Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. By the grace of God, Kate pursued her degree in Human Development and Family Studies, graduating in December of 1999 with a Bachelor of Science degree. During her senior year at the University of Alabama, Kate received the Leah Cowles Master’s Award, which is given to the most outstanding senior in the Human Development and Family Studies Program. After graduation, she moved north to Martha’s Vineyard to be closer to her family. During this time, she explored all the available options for graduate school, finally setting her sights on the University of Florida. Again, by the grace of God she discovered a unique program. The University of Florida was in the beginning stages of developing a graduate program in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences. She began her graduate career here in Gainesville, during the fall of 2001. She received a Master of Science degree in family, youth, and community sciences. During the course of her master’s degree, Kate was actively involved in Campus Church of Christ’s campus ministry 108

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109 program. Upon graduation, Kate plans to seek a position working with at-risk youth or continuing her social science research on at-risk youth.