History

In 1986 the Sarasota Chapter of the League of Women Voters approached the Junior League of Sarasota, Inc. with concerns that the community was experiencing an increase in juvenile crime. An innovative youth jury program operating in Grand Prairie and Odessa, Texas was meeting with great success through the use of diversion programs for juvenile offenders and by providing opportunities for civic engagement for student volunteers.  Local community leaders and judicial officers determined that the concept could have a positive impact on the youth of Sarasota County.

Teen Court of Sarasota, Inc., a 501 (c)(3) organization, was incorporated in 1988 and the first Teen Court hearings were held in December, 1988.   In 1995, the Florida Association of Teen Courts, Inc. was founded.  In 1996, F.S.S. 938.19 was adopted by the Florida Legislature, providing for the collection of a fee on certain traffic tickets and court costs as a funding source for Teen Courts. By 2011, 52 Florida counties had an active Teen Court program based on the Sarasota model.

Over the years, new programs have been added.  Peer Circle Counseling began in 1989 and provides teens with an opportunity to discuss issues of concern in a peer setting.  Camp X-RAYD was established in 2002 to help juvenile offenders who have substance abuse issues.  In 2011, seeing an increase in bullying and battery cases, the staff implemented CO-OP, a counseling service that helps teens learn how to interact with others in a positive way.