Justice Is Served On The Peer Jury


The Erie County Courthouse

Grace Arthur , Journalist

  In 1982, The Erie County Juvenile Court, with the cooperation and participation of various nearby high schools, created a new program, the first of its kind in the state of Pennsylvania, that is still in action today. The Peer Jury Program is a rehabilitative service which utilizes high school students to serve as jurors as they hear out court cases and determine the consequence of the individual.

  I was approached by Mrs.Weiss in early October and she asked if I was interested in volunteering to be a member of the jury. At first I was hesitant because I’m not looking to major or have a career in criminal justice, but I decided to take part in it because I thought it would be interesting and just a good experience in general. However, I was a little worried about participating simply because I didn’t know what to expect.

  The first day we met the judge and he was very kind which I guess surprised me because I expected every judge to be like Judge Judy. He explained how he is invested in these kids lives and he encourages them to go through peer jury so they can realize they need to turn their lives around. He went on by saying how we (the peer jury members) are now invested in their lives as well just by being here and determining their consequences in hopes that their issues won’t bleed into adulthood.

  Senior, Noah Clever, was also asked by Mrs. Weiss if he would like to be a member of the peer jury and he also agreed to take part in it saying, “I thought it was a good experience, I learned about the judicial system pertaining to minors.”  

  Along with General McLane, two students were also chosen from Mercyhurst Prep, Villa Maria, Fort LeBoeuf, the Charter School of Excellence Skills Center, and Erie High School. We met every Wednesday from Oct. 24 to Dec. 5th from 1-3pm. Each day, we heard from three individuals who were found guilty of various petty crimes and/or illegal drug possessions. Before the individual and their parent came into the courtroom, we were given a paper that listed their charges. When the person came in, we would ask them questions about their misdemeanor to find out more about the individual so we could then determine the right consequences.

  The results generally ranged from 30-90 day probation, random drug tests, apology letters, community service or a combination of some of these things. The main purpose of peer jury is to show the troubled youth that actions have consequences and they need to learn from their mistakes. It’s important that they understand if they continue to do the same in the future, the consequences could include jail time.