Children in the U.S. Justice System

In spring, a group of eighteen international visitors from Egypt, Ghana, Haiti, India, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Palau, Panama, Philippines, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Sudan, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, Zambia, and Zimbabwe arrived in Pensacola on the last leg of a three week International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) examining “Children in the U.S. Justice System.”

One of the many purposes of their project was to introduce the U.S. federalist system of government to them. They also explored the U.S. judicial system and the legal structures in place to protect children while focusing on best practices in treatment and rehabilitation tailored to the needs of juvenile offenders and their families. During their three weeks, they also discussed international cooperation to combat trafficking in children and child exploitation and examined ways to resolve cross-border child custody disputes.

Their time in northwest Florida program started with a welcome at Pensacola City Hall by Don Kraher who gave insight on the structure of local government and presented certificates of honorary citizenship with the city to each participant. The group next visited the AMIkids Pensacola Day Program where they met with Jeffrey Jean‑Jacques, Julie Emmons, Reginald Robinson, Natasha Rosado, Helena Waldie, and other faculty and administrators. After learning about the program from staff, the international visitors participated in an interactive activity with the students.

The group also learned about the philosophy and structure behind STRIDE, a local nonprofit and mentorship program, during a meeting with David Hawkins and Kendrell Bonner. STRIDE uses a holistic team approach where teams are led by community role models and students compete with each other individually on things like grades, community service projects, and books read while points are deducted for unexcused school absences and dress code violations.

An example of a restorative justice program designed specifically for teenage boys was next on the itinerary with the group visiting the AMIkid’s Escambia Boys Base where they met with Oliver Jones and William Freeman. Located on an active military installation, Escambia Boys Base is an AMIkids residential restorative justice program that serves males referred through the juvenile court system between the ages of 14‑18.

Afterward, the group went to the Drug and Alcohol Adolescent Residential Treatment center (DAART) where they met Holiday Whisenant, Mindy McClurg, Tony Morris, and Jessica Urbaniak to examine support services for at risk youth dealing with substance abuse issues. DAART is a residential program focusing on behavioral and mental health for students ages 12‑17 at the Lakeview Center of Baptist Hospital.

Before departing for their respective homes, the group spent a morning discussing their national project through a formal final evaluation. We thank everyone involved for helping make their time with us a success, including our members who welcomed them to our annual meeting with smiles and hospitality.

Receiving Honorary Citizenship with the City of Pensacola