ORANGE, NJ - On a cold December morning, two young black male defendants sat in a packed Orange Municipal courtroom waiting to see what their fate would be. As the defendants were seated, a parade of witnesses took the stand to face a barrage of questions from the prosecution and defense. Finally, the judge handed down a guilty verdict and a two-year sentence.
But thankfully no one is actually going to prison. This was a mock trial orchestrated by The North Jersey Chapter of Jack and Jill Jack of America, Inc. in partnership with the City of Orange. The goal was to offer teens instruction and advice through the presentation of a realistic scenario.
“Our aim is to make our children completely aware of the world and circumstances around them so that they can successfully navigate a course that achieves their goals. The decisions made in the justice system are often swift and severe. Unfortunately, we have seen far too many cases where the wrong word or action has ended a young life,” said Mayor Dwayne Warren, Esq.
Mayor Warren played the prosecutor in the trial and was joined by several other real-life attorneys, police officers, a judge and teen “actors” from Jack and Jill. At the heart of the case, were two teens (played by Brandon Morrison and Daniel Daughtry) accused of supplying drugs and alcohol to underage high school students at a party where a boy died.
After the trial, the lawyers took time to answer numerous questions from the audience packed with teens from Jack and Jill, the Kappa League and Orange High School. “There were many lessons learned and questions answered. Just what our teens and parents need to keep hearing, digesting and applying,” said Margaret Cunningham, President of North Jersey Jack and Jill.
The teens also had a candid conversation with Orange Police Director Todd Warren. They were totally engaged as he gave them helpful advice on how to interact with police, sharing the importance of being respectful and following orders. He talked about posting on social media, listening to their parents and knowing who their friends are. He also said that police are watching when “dummies” post photos of guns and cash, warning that “prison is no joke.”
Mayor Warren added, “The kind of experiential learning that was provided by this collaboration with Jack and Jill prepared students to make choices that serve to extend their lives. Efforts like these minimize the mistakes that young people make every day, which have lifetime consequences. I salute all involved for making this model opportunity available in Orange.”