CASS COUNTY, Mo. — Cass County teens are stepping up to help an at times overloaded criminal justice system.
"Youth Courts," like the one in Cass County, exist all across the country.
Volunteers like Jim Eftink say they can have a tremendous impact on juvenile offenders.
"Perhaps most importantly — it has a very strong deterrence factor for the defendants themselves," Eftink said. "The fact that they have to go into a courtroom, and face a judge who is about the same age as them, has a more powerful and profound affect upon them."
Eftink helps train youth court volunteers like Lilly Johnson, and Sam Claiborn, who both studied for weeks to pass youth court's version of the bar.
Thursday night's swearing in ceremony at the Historic Cass County Courthouse makes it official.
"It makes me feel like I had like a part in the court system," Claiborne said.
Data from he United States Department of Justice shows in 2019 alone, court with juvenile jurisdiction handled more than 700,000 cases. Youth courts help ease that enormous burden.
Youth court jurors fill a crucial gap that many juveniles fall through. By taking on the more minor cases it frees up the tradition and often overloaded court system.
Johnson feels it's a better option for defendants who might just need a nudge in the right direction.
"Regardless of the circumstances, teens understand teens, because we all go through similar things on different levels and we can provide an unbiased and fair solution to their offenses," she said.
Twenty-one total youth court volunteers graduated Thursday night.