Livingston, Ala. The Sumter County Courtroom was packed Tuesday morning, but not just for any trial, one that involved the county's 4th graders, drugs, and guns. This mock trial marked the 17th one since 1997 as part of the county's "Guns and Drugs are Out" program. Sumter County District Court Judge Tammy Jackson Montgomery says it's important to teach children about the dangers of drugs and guns while they're young.
"We use in our mock trials the penalties that are available and used in adult trials, but we don't want them to go into the criminal justice system at the adult stage, so we start with children."
In that mock trial, the students take the place of all the courtroom players, including attorneys, the defendant, the judge, and the jury. It's this mock trial that Montgomery says gives them hands on experience in the criminal justice system, to keep them out of it later on.
"We use real attorneys. We use a drug dog with the K9 Unit from the Alabama State Troopers. We use a real agent from the Alabama Beverage Control Board to show them things that they should not get involved with."
Montgomery says that the program has worked. She has seen her list of juvenile offenders decrease steadily since the implementation of "Guns and Drugs are Out."
"I have seen my juvenile court docket dwindle to almost nothing, going from almost 30 cases to probably right now 8 or 9, so we think that's a tremendous effort that we want to keep going in Sumter County."