Colorado Springs Teen Court will host its annual luncheon at 11:30 a.m. April 7 at the Doubletree by Hilton in Colorado Springs to educate the community about the impact it has on the lives of troubled teens.

The free event, “Changing Lives…Changing Community,” will be hosted by KKTV news anchor Dianne Derby and allow the public to learn more about the nonprofit’s programs for vulnerable youth in the community.

The event has occurred for 11 years and serves as a fundraiser for Teen Court’s restorative justice programs.

The 501(c)3 works with the municipal court to provide alternative sentencing for first-time misdemeanor offenses committed by youth between 10-18 years old.

“All our sentences are determined by our student volunteers — literally a jury of the defendant’s peers,” said Debbie English, executive director of the organization. “We are a restorative justice organization, so everything is designed to help the offender take responsibility for the harm they caused, take steps to repair it, and gain the skills and info they need to make better choices the next time.”

A focus on repairing harm and learning skills for better decision-making has led to a recidivism rate of only 11 percent, compared to a national average rate of 40-50 percent in the regular court system, according to a press release.

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“We see 400-600 cases per year,” said English. “That number hasn’t changed a lot, but we are seeing many more cases where marijuana use is an issue.”

Sentencing can range from community service and drug/alcohol education classes to creating an art project or writing an essay on what the juvenile offender has learned.

“First time misdemeanor offenders in the Colorado Springs Municipal Court may be offered a deferred sentence at Teen Court,” English said. “This decision is made by the city attorney on the case and approved by the judge.”

The nonprofit offers restorative mediation sessions to hold offenders accountable, with parent participation.

“For fighting or bullying cases, the parties may meet with a trained mediator to explore the issues behind the problem and work together on addressing them and charting a more positive course for the future,” English said.

The organization relies on community support to sustain its programs and includes over 200 Colorado Springs teenage volunteers.

For those interested in attending, RSVP at preferably by March 24 and no later than April 1. For more information or to sponsor, call 475-7815.