Loomis steps up to save peer court

Town council pledges $10,000 to program
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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Loomis became the first municipality in the county to commit funds to save the beleaguered Placer Peer Court. The town council pledged up to $10,000, which would include donations from local service organizations, to help backfill the funds usually provided by the Placer County Court. Peer Court is a program that gives youth involved in minor offenses a chance to have their case heard in a court of their peers — fellow teens. Young people serve as lawyers, clerks and jury. But now, the Town’s grant may not be enough. Karen Green, who runs the program, said the county has cut $80,000 in Peer Court support from their budget. “We’re going to keep battling, I’m still hoping we can get money from the county,” she said. Tatum Jungsten, 15, a Del Oro sophomore, was a juror in Peer Court last year. She said the program shows students “the consequences if you do something wrong. “It’s especially good for those who may be going down that road. It would deter them,” Tatum said. Her classmate Logan Lamb, 15, said he thought it was a “good learning opportunity.” Green, who lives in Penryn, said she came away from the Aug. 11 Loomis council meeting feeling “very proud,” after receiving their support. “I thought they (the council) get it. I came away from that meeting feeling very proud to be a part of this community,” Green said. Green has been trying to find funds to keep the much-lauded program alive after Placer County Courts were forced to cut the $100,000 normally provided for the youth program. According to Green, since 2005 there have been 108 Peer Court cases from the Loomis area. Her report stated that the average cost of handling the cases in Peer Court was $43,000, or about $400 per case. She said the cost of handling these same cases in the regular juvenile justice system would have been about $43,000 or $4,000 per case. “In the long run, this will save the county money. It’s disheartening to see the lack of vision. They’re only looking at the short term,” Green said of the budget cuts. “No one is asking ‘Where will we be in six months or a year?’ What is going to happen to the offenders?” she asked. To date, Green said she has $42,000 to fund the $200,000 program. She said the Placer County Bar Association has committed $5,000, school districts have pledged $12,500, and Loomis has committed $10,000. The program also received a $12,500 substance abuse prevention grant. Green said the money will only be used if “the program goes forward.” She said she will continue to petition local city governments and lobby the county. Sophomore Tanner Huber, 15, participated in Peer Court and said the defendants “definitely got something out of it.” “It helped us learn about law, crime, punishment and what not to do,” Tanner said. “We have wonderful support from the schools, kids, parents, courts, bar and parole agency,” Green said “I’ve not thrown in the towel, yet.”