Broward judge gives at-risk youth criminal courtroom experience

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Keeping kids from getting in trouble with the law is the mission of one Broward County judge, who opened up his courtroom to give at-risk youth a front row seat to what they could face if they don’t clean up their act.

“I’m Michael Davis, welcome to your first appearance court. Let me tell you a little bit about what we do here,” said Broward County judge Michael Davis, as he introduced himself to the kids.

One by one, the students filed into the courtroom.

“So I am the first judge that anyone sees when they get arrested in Broward County,” began Davis.

Today, his courtroom is being used as a learning tool, where the students had an opportunity to watch the wheels of justice at work.

“I am going to set what is called a bond or bail in their case … Everybody here gets a fair hearing before me.”

For two hours, case after case, the students paid close attention to the cases and even interacted with the judge

“I’m gonna set your bond at 1,000 dollars on count 1,” said Davis, as an example.

At one point he asked the students, “Everybody is…?” Where he and the students recited in unison, “Innocent until proven guilty.”

Judge Davis was appointed to bond court in June. Not long after, he was shocked at how many young kids were committing serious crimes.

“I have had kids in this courtroom as young as 13 years old charged with things that are punishable by life,” he explained, “so I sat down and thought about it, how can I help?

So, after careful planning, he decided to bring at-risk students into his courtroom in a first-of-its-kind program.

“Maybe showing them what happens in here, what happens in our criminal justice system, just how scary it can be. It might make the difference to a child,” said Davis.

Judge Davis teamed up with the PROMISE (Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Supports & Education) Program, an intervention program aiming at keeping troubled students out of the court system, run by the Broward school district. “PROMISE is also a way for you to take charge of your life,” said Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.

Once their day in court was over, they all got a little one-on-one time with the judge.

“Do you want to be an accountant?” Davis asked a student.

“Nah, but I got a good grade in math this year,” said the student.

“What did you get?” asked Davis.

“I got a ‘B,'” he responded.

“That’s great,” complimented Davis.

As Davis said goodbye to the students and headed back to the courtroom, the students came forward to share with 7News what they had learned, including 14-year-old Hector Rodriguez, a PROMISE Program student who is determined to stay away from trouble.

“Getting in trouble is bad, and it’s like, it destroys your life when you get in trouble,” said Rodriguez.

Also impressed by the process was 16-year-old Romero Montez.

“I thought it was gonna be different,” said Montez. “I thought he was gonna, just like, tell them their bond and their sentence, and that was gonna be it.”

Sixteen-year-old PROMISE Program student Handle Miller also appreciated what he saw. “Just seeing people being punished for their actions, it’s all right.”

In conclusion, on this first day of Judge Davis’ new program, he know he was on to something good.

“I am hoping we can touch the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of children,” said Davis.

Davis hopes parents and teachers will be able to use the website for the PROMISE Program as a learning tool.

To learn more about the program, click here.

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