Children who live in the Lafayette Gardens Housing Development were given a firsthand look at the justice system. Renee Collymore, district leader for the 57th Assembly District, took the initiative to bring the 15 kids to Brooklyn Criminal Court.
The children, ages seven to 14, were given an opportunity to see the justice system at work and get into the minds of a litigator. In a legal library, they met with Civil and Supreme Court judges who took questions from the children and spoke about past trials.
One judge spoke about a case he had where the defendant received 125 years in jail, to the disbelief of some of the children.
“This is real,” said Collymore.
Her goal was to show the children two starkly different realities: success and failure. In just one trip to the Brooklyn Criminal Court, the met firsthand with role models in the legal community, as well as suspected criminals who may serve time in jail.
Her main goal was to show the child that going to jail is something “that doesn’t not have to happen to you.”
“It was an educational trip that would impact their lives forever,” said Collymore.
Along with meeting with the judges, the children sat in on arraignments. Collymore recalled the looks on the faces of the children when they were faced with the realities of having one’s freedom stripped from them.
That is when the children became uncomfortable, according to Collymore. One child was baffled that a man being arraigned had to have his hands cuffed behind his back for the entire proces.
This isn’t the first time that Collymore has taken the youth of her community on a field trip in an attempt to teach a lesson. In 2010, she began “Fundamentals of Citizenship,” which teaches children how volunteerism helps the community.
She has also taken children to Albany to visit state legislators and speak with them about issues plaguing their community.
Collymore said it is important to invest in children living in public housing because they are the long-term solution to the problems in their neighborhoods.
Collymore said that she would like to do bring more children to the Brooklyn Criminal Court, and work with schools in the area to bring students to the court. She said that it was her responsibility as an elected official to set an example for these children.
“I like to get my hands dirty and jump right in,” she said.