Pubdate: Sun, 17 Mar 2002
Source: Suffolk News-Herald (VA)
Copyright: 2002 Suffolk News-Herald
Author: Barbara Allen
Bookmark: (Drug Education)


About 30 Forest Glen Middle School students arrived at the Godwin Courts 
Building early Friday morning. They were the invited guests of 
Commonwealth's Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson, whose office is a "Partner in 
Education" with Suffolk Public Schools.

All the excitement centered on the pupils learning about the legal process 
and all that goes on inside a courtroom.

The students who are members of the school's "Just Say No Club," came to 
court to watch as a number of people had their freedom taken away by 
Circuit Court Judge D. Arthur Kelsey.

Although Ferguson had prepared the students with what to expect in the 
courtroom, when the judge entered the courtroom, one of the students softly 
exclaimed, "This is awesome!"

During the proceedings, Judge Kelsey sentenced a man to six years in jail 
on a revocation hearing and another student remarked, "Man, this is better 
than Judge Judy!"

Eyes opened wide as the students slid up to the edge of their seats in the 
hushed courtroom. Intently, they focused on the man as he broke down in 
tears while being led from the courtroom by sheriff's deputies. There was 
not a sound from the children as their eyes followed the handcuffed man out 
of the courtroom.

The hearings and revocations continued and the students sat in silence as 
they witnessed a young offender their age be sentenced for credit card 
theft, forgery, grand larceny, discharging a firearm, unlawful wounding, 
possession of burglary tools, violation of curfew, and tampering with a 

Following the hearings, Judge Kelsey spent time with the club members, 
explaining that every single defendant came to the courtroom as a result of 
drugs or alcohol abuse.

"Boredom can wreck a man or woman quickly," said the judge. "We need to 
find work to do so that you don't have dead space in your life to find 
temptation. Drugs and alcohol bring counterfeit happiness and a promise of 
joy, but they only bring pain and misery and eventually death.

After their courtroom experience, Ferguson invited the students to his 
office for refreshments, telling them how happy he is they were able to 
learn about the court system.

"It is important you understand what happens with illegal activities and 
the consequences," he said. "If you get a good education, that's something 
that can't be taken away from you. Education is the equalizer and gives 
everyone a chance to succeed."
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