Preparing to Soar, Inc. (PTS) is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization located in Smithfield, North Carolina. PTS oversees a Teen Court Program and Juvenile Mediation Project for Johnston County.
The mission of Preparing to Soar (PTS) is to serve at-risk youth, adolescents and their families by utilizing a holistic approach that will address behavioral, emotional, educational and social handicaps. PTS seeks to provide an environment that is conducive to the development and enrichment of youth, adolescents and their families. PTS capitalizes on its strong connections with the local community, stakeholders and professionally experienced staff to provide highly effective educational and behavioral intervention strategies in a therapeutic setting.
The Teen Court Program was established for first-time, misdemeanor offenders, ages eleven to seventeen, who admit guilt for their offense and are currently enrolled in the Johnston County school system. Instead of the youth being charged and appearing in court, he or she is "diverted" to the Preparing to Soar Teen Court.
The courtroom is overseen by an adult Judge, but all of the lawyers, bailiffs, jurors, and defendants are youth. Teen Court offers youth an opportunity for constructive sentencing by their peers.
The jury hears evidence and arguments as presented by the lawyers and prosecutors and then chooses from a menu of sanctions designed to teach consequences and responsibility that can “redirect" youth from committing another crime.
Preparing to Soar Teen Court has been developed to serve as a sentencing alternative for at-risk teens that may or may not have been eligible for diversion under traditional diversion criteria.
The purpose of the program is to provide a venue for swift, constructive sentencing for youths while lessening the actual caseload of the formal court system.
Teen Courts are a proven tool in the fight against rising juvenile crime rates. Recidivism amongst youth served by Teen Courts is low, believed to be less than 10%.
In addition to its direct impact on juvenile crime, Teen Courts involve community youth who are not offenders in the roles of lawyers, bailiffs, clerks, and jury, helping to deter these youth from becoming involved in criminal activity and providing them with training and experience in the justice field.
The Juvenile Mediation Project (JMP) is a collaborative effort of PTS and the 11-B Judicial District, which is comprised of Johnston County.
The goals of the project are several:
1. Give juveniles the opportunity to take responsibility for and become accountable for their actions;
2. Give victims the opportunity to learn about and be intimately involved in the outcome of their cases;
3. Give all parties the opportunity to craft an agreement that will address and repair the harm which has been caused by criminal activity;
4. Involve law students in the process of victim/offender mediation as active mediators.
Both programs receive referrals from the juvenile justice system, the court system and the school system.
PTS's initial target was to serve 20 youth during the 2012-2013 budget year - the program served 30 youth that year - a 50% increase over target. The next year, 2013-2014, the program served 60 youth – a 200% increase over target!
Each budget year the number of youth referred has increased dramatically!