Teen Justice Panels are based upon the principles of balanced and restorative justice. These principles include helping juveniles realize their potential while being accountable for their actions, providing protection to the community, and promoting competency development. 

1. Referral: Lincoln County Juvenile Department offers first time offenders (ages 12-17) the opportunity to attend a panel instead of traditional criminal court. Juvenile Department refers appropriate youth who have committed minor offenses such as: possession of alcohol, possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana, possession of tobacco, theft, criminal mischief, curfew violations, or traffic offenses. In order to participate, the youth must admit involvement in the offense (admit guilt) and agree to attend their panel meeting.

2. Panelists: All volunteer youth panelists live in the local community that they serve. They are trained in conflict resolution, decision making, accountability, consensus building, victim awareness, and the juvenile justice system. The panel meeting is attended by an average of 5-10 people:

  • Youth offender
  • Youth's parent/guardian
  • Program Coordinator
  • 3 volunteer youth
  • PAADA's adult advisor
  • 1 prior youth offender
  • Facilitator
  • If there is an identified victim, they are invited to be a panelist. If there is not an identified victim, a community representative is included as a panelist.

3. The Panel Session: An adult facilitator, trained in mediation and consensus building, convenes the panel in a neutral location. Participants are seated around a table. Panelists question the offender about the offense and how they have been affected by their own actions. All participants are invited to describe how the incident has affected them. Discussion takes place about how the offender can repair the harm done. The session is a voluntary and confidential process that can be stopped at any time. Panelists are assisted in the process by the facilitator.

4. The Resolution Contract: The panel does not decide guilt or innocence. The panel develops a program that is customized to the offense and its impact on the victim and/or community, as well as the individual’s abilities. Resolutions can include community service, restitution (paying a fine), skill building and educational activities, apologies, connections with resources in the community, and other forms of repairing harm done and paying back to the community. 

5. Completion: The youth is monitored by his or her assigned "Advisor" to successfully complete the contract within a specified time (on average within 2 months).The youth’s Advisor monitors progress, helps solve issues and provides resources. When the resolution contract is completed, the advisor informs the Coordinator who informs the Juvenile Department. The youth's record will show successful program completion with no legal action taken. If for any reason the youth fails to complete the resolution or commits another offense, the case is returned to the Juvenile Department for further action.



  • Does not enter the justice system, with all of the stigmas, costs and detriments of a juvenile record attached.
  • Is accountable for their actions and have a chance to directly repay the victim and/or community through positive action.
  • Gains life skills and competencies that will prevent them from re-entering the criminal system.


  • Witness the care and concern of their community.
  • Has an opportunity to access additional resources within their community.


  • Become educated by the cases they hear; problems of other local youth and the community become clearer
  • Learn conflict resolution, decision-making skills and leadership skills
  • Gain knowledge of the judicial system
  • Experience the value of becoming more involved in their communities


  • Panelists will provide information and input into the decisions of their community which involve the issues of all young people, not just those in trouble.
  • Teen Justice Panels are customized to meet the needs of the local community.
  • The Juvenile Department has an effective tool to deal with minor first-time offenses.
  • The program will save Lincoln County money and other valuable resources.


Each panelist receives formal training which includes:
1. An overview of the Juvenile Justice System,
2. Information about group process, conflict resolution, decision-making, and leadership,
3. Information about abuse of alcohol and other drugs.
4. Victim awareness.

A Collaborative Effort
The Teen Justice Panel Program is a collaborative effort:

  • Volunteer teen panelists, adult advisors and resolution facilitators
  • Partnership Against Alcohol & Drug Abuse (PAADA)
  • Lincoln Community Dispute Resolution
  • Lincoln County Juvenile Department
  • Local law enforcement
  • Lincoln County District Attorney
  • Victim Assistance
  • Juvenile and Circuit Court Judges
  • Lincoln County School District
  • Lincoln County Health and Human Services

Local governments, businesses, and service organizations also give the program invaluable support. All parts of the community benefit when the panels work well.

PAADA, in conjunction with Lincoln Community Dispute Resolution, administer the program. They are responsible for recruiting, training, raising resources, public education, working with public agencies, and coordinating the program.

Nation-wide, panels collectively average a 90% completion rate for the contracts they enter with youth. The effectiveness of the Teen Justice Panel can also be measured by intangible results. Youth are accountable for their actions, are less likely to enter the criminal system, and are less likely to use alcohol and other drugs. They receive career guidance, positive adult mentoring, and life skills. Volunteer youth benefit as well.

What is Teen Justice Panel?

Lincoln County Juvenile Criminal Court Diversion Program 

Teen Justice Panels of Lincoln County

Questions or Information

Contact Teen Justice Panel Coordinator

Mindy Baxter


A community approach to justice

Rooted in Accountability