Peterson Eager To Get Teen Court Up And Running
Marlinton, WV – Thomas Peterson had no idea that he would become the Pocahontas County Teen Court Coordinator when he and his wife moved to Green Bank last year. They relocated from Michigan to Green Bank when she got a job teaching at the school. But he says his job as Coordinator for the program is a perfect fit.
He has a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice, and originally thought of going into law enforcement. During an internship with a police dept, he discovered it wasn’t really the right career path for him. Then in January, he heard a presentation by the Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition. He was intrigued by their commitment to fighting drug and alcohol abuse in the county. So when he saw a want ad for the Coalition, he says immediately applied for the job.
Peterson says the Pocahontas program will be similar to those already established in Morgantown and in Mercer County. He says the teen court works just like a regular court.
Peterson says that Teen Court is voluntary. It’s important to note that teens who choose adjudication in Teen Court rather than Magistrate court also give up their right to legal representation, as they’ll be represented by their peers in Teen Court. Parents are required to be part of the process and agree to support the sentences handed down. The most common sentence is community service, or writing an essay or apology letter. Convicted defendants must also commit to serving as jurors once they’ve completed their sentence.
The program is open to kids in 7th through 12th grades. Peterson says he’s looking for a mix of kids for the program.
Students must submit an application and essay, and then go through an interview to be part of the court. Peterson, Morgantown Teen Coordinator Christopher Mullins and Pocahontas County Asst Prosecuting Attorney JL Clifton will be in charge of training. For now, Peterson is working hard to recruit kids for the program that may start as early as this June.