Tammy Mutasa, Garland/Mesquite Reporter
Royse City creates a teen court program which gives minors between the ages of 10 and 17 a chance to clear their name after committing Class C Misdemeanors.
Rockwall County is launching a teen court in Royse City this spring to help first-time offenders stay out of trouble.
Volunteers will work with youth between the ages of 10 and 17 who have committed Class C misdemeanors beginning in April.
"It's really to keep kids from getting in trouble again," Royse City spokeswoman Janet McPherson said.
"We realized there the was an issue with the way ... that they are handled in the criminal system," Rockwall County Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Thatcher said. "They get lost."
In teen court, offenders admit their guilt or plead no contest in front of a jury of their peers. They are then sentenced to community service or other projects the jury sees appropriate.
"We've got an opportunity to make their sentencing an event," said Curt Covington, of Leadership Rockwall County. "And because it's an event, it can reduce the repeat-offender rate, and it's something they can look back on and say, 'That was a turning point in my life.'"
The City of Royse City said it had between 500 and 600 juvenile case filings last year. The number of cases has increased in the last few years because of county is growing, it said.
"The city doesn't quite have the apparatus to keep up with those offenders and process them through the system -- that's where teen court comes in," Covington said. "Teen court will us relieve the burden from Royse City and the city resources."
Parents said they see the teen court as a helping hand.
"I think it's awesome, as a parent of a small town, to have a program that's going to help us take care of our own children," Lisa Oliver said. "Everyone deserves a second chance."
Teen court will run once per month. The county hopes to spread it to other cities in Rockwall County.