by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
One of my childhood friends was a boy who lived down the street. At the time I didn’t understand why his personality changed whenever we entered his house to play. Outside his house, or inside mine, he was a talkative and happy kid who was wicked smart. Inside his house, he was somber and quiet, leaving all the talking to me. It was years later that I learned of the upheaval inside his family caused by a parent with a volatile temper and a sibling with a drug habit.
It is this kind of childhood experience that can push a kid into the court system either as a perpetrator or as a victim. It is the kind of experience that North Carolina Chief Justice Paul Newby’s new task force is seeking to learn more about. The task force was announced this week.
“I’m pleased to announce I am establishing the Task Force on ACEs-Informed Courts,” said Chief Justice Paul Newby. “These traumas increase the likelihood that these children will end up in the courtroom. I look forward to the positive outcomes this group will produce for our children and our communities.”
To accomplish this mission, the Task Force will:
Provide judges and court administrators with practical education on the effects of ACEs;
Equip juvenile court officials to recognize young offenders and victims impacted by ACEs;
Identify existing programs and design new programs that intervene in the lives of young ACEs offenders and victims affected by ACEs to put them on a path away from the courthouse and into a successful adult life; and
Provide a platform from which court officials can offer feedback to educators regarding their experiences, with the hope of creating further avenues for research on this important topic.