The Peer Jury Program is an innovative alternative used to divert nonviolent first time juvenile offenders from formal court action, while still making them accountable for their actions. Offenders between the ages of 10 and 16 who admit their guilt are required to appear before a jury of their peers (usually six) to explain their actions. A parent or legal guardian must accompany the offender at the hearing.
The jury meets on the first Tuesday and the third Monday of each month in the police station. During the hearing, members of the jury ask the offender questions about the offense as well as about their character and acceptance of responsibility for their actions. The jurors then determine an appropriate sentence for the offender ranging from a letter of apology or a research paper to community service hours.
The offenders must complete their sentence within the time specified by the jury, normally one month. The offender must then return for a disposition hearing to answer questions about the work they did and what they have learned from this experience.
Qualifications to be a member of the jury are:
1. Have had no negative contact with the police within the last six months.
2. Be a resident of Oak Lawn or attend school in Oak Lawn.
3. Be between the ages of 13 and 17.
4. Undergo a successful interview process.
5. Have a signed permission form from a parent/guardian