Accountability, Competency, Community
Teenagers who volunteer to sit on the Youth Court decide the sentence for other teens who admitted to committing an offense. These teen volunteers base their sentence on the principles of Restorative Justice:
- The teenager learns that bad decisions affect many people and that you have to take responsibility for your actions through personal Accountability.
- The teen who caused the harm learns how to make better decisions, enhancing Competency.
- If a teen has a good relationship with her community, she will not act out against it. By connecting or reconnecting the youth to his community, you build a relationship that reduces the likelihood of acting out against the Community.
For the youth who volunteer, Youth Courts inform and educate young people about the role of law in our democracy and about their role as active citizens. Volunteers learn about court procedures, sentencing options, trial techniques, structure of the justice system, the meaning of justice and relationships between rights and responsibilities.
Young people who are equipped with knowledge of the law and how it works within the judicial system are inclined to have a better understanding of their connection to the American system of justice. The youth feel that they are participants not potential victims.
Executive Director Denise Bentley
Tennessee Youth Court (TYC) is a teen-driven juvenile delinquency prevention/intervention diversion program based on restorative justice. Executive Director Denise Bentley has guided TYC to proven success in many areas, and is excited to be a part of the its development in Tennessee.
A native of Nashville, Ms. Bentley holds a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University and a Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt University School of Law.
The program is attached to Tennessee Youth Courts, Inc. - a nonprofit that focuses on juvenile delinquency prevention and intervention. Before its launch as an independent organization, Ms. Bentley was the program director of a similar initiative of the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA). Under Bentley’s direction, TYC has gone from nine programs in nine counties to twenty-one in eighteen counties.
Ms. Bentley's passion for positive change in the lives of youth was born from her post as violence prevention coordinator for Metro Nashville Public Schools. While at MNPS, Bentley became a certified Olweus Bullying Prevention trainer.