Hampton program for teens takes them into the criminal justice system

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HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — All 27 middle schoolers completed the week-long Junior Commonwealth’s Attorney program in Hampton on Friday morning.

“Many times when they are introduced to the criminal justice system, it’s because there’s been a negative impact, so we want to let them know there’s good things going on in our system and these are the things you can learn,” said Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton Bell.

They fit in a lot in five days. During the JCAP program they visited Circuit Court, met with FBI officials, and even went to Richmond to meet with Attorney General Mark Herring, among many other activities.

“The fact we do have younger people in the community wanting to engage in the law enforcement in the criminal justice system, in courts and stuff just gives us more hope for the future of our government,” said rising 8th grader Makayla Sigler.

This is the third year hosting the program, and Bell says this year they had a waiting list because so many kids applied.

Bell says JCAP is more than just learning the ropes, it’s also another way to let the teens know their future is limitless.

“It says I can make choices that I don’t have to end up in a prison or a grave as a result of those choices,” he explained.

The program was free to all 27 teen participants, and that’s because it’s funded with money seized from drug dealers.

“What it says is we’re going to kill two birds with one stone, we’re going to get the poison off the street and we’re going to turn that poison into a portion on the road to success,” he explained.

The participants say the method hit home for them and they’d encourage all of their peers to apply.

“I feel as if it gives us insight to what we shouldn’t do and the people who are actually out there to help us and out there to save our lives so we can better ourselves for the future,” said 8th grader Jonathan Jackson.

“I think to change the world you have to change the lives of the people in it for the better, I think that’s something that’s really important and that’s setting all of us up to do that,” added Sigler.

Bell says he’s in the process of getting a grant that would give them the funds to expand the program.

In the future, he says he’d like to run it multiple times a year, including over spring and Christmas breaks.

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