This past school year, District Attorney Vern Person teamed up with Sierra School in Placerville for an innovative approach to crime prevention—one that teaches children that the choices they make today can affect their lives forever.
Through Project LEAD (Legal Enrichment and Decision Making), prosecutors from the District Attorney’s Office visited students at Sierra School once a week to provide an introduction to the criminal justice system and to promote positive decision-making skills. The hour-long lessons focused on the legal and social consequences of juvenile crimes such as truancy, illicit drug use, shoplifting and graffiti. Students engaged in group discussions and role playing scenarios to become acquainted with common pressures that lead to delinquent conduct and to practice refusal skills to deter criminal activity.
Project LEAD culminated in a mock trial held at the El Dorado County Superior Court in Placerville. The trial—conducted entirely by students who played the role of the judge, prosecutors, defense attorneys and courtroom staff—introduced hallmark concepts of justice such as the right to counsel and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. After careful deliberation, a jury of fifth graders unanimously found their peer Tracy Smith guilty of the crime of carrying a loaded gun.
Students, parents and school administrators agree with the benefits of Project LEAD. Given the success of the pilot program, the DA’s Office hopes to expand Project LEAD to schools across El Dorado County in the coming years.
In taking crime prevention from the courtroom to the classroom through Project LEAD, the Office of the District Attorney remains steadfast to our goal to pursue innovation in everything we do in order to achieve justice for the People of El Dorado County.