Local teens get a taste of judicial system

ST. CLAIRSVILLE Young people in jeopardy got a close look at where repeated criminal behavior could take them Monday when several juveniles from the county’s juvenile court sat in on a session of common pleas court presided by Judge Frank Fregiato.

Juvenile Court Judge Mark Costine said almost 10 juveniles were in attendance. Each of the 10 probation officers was asked to bring a juvenile who could benefit from the experience.

“We are having various groups come into view court, which is an extension of my whole old high school program where I used to have it through county court. We can’t go through the high schools now directly because of the magnitude of the cases we have, so we are bringing students in at all levels,” Fregiato said, adding that they have brought in Belmont College students and are now bringing in juvenile students at the high school level.

“I think it went extremely well. I appreciate Judge Costine’s assistance. The juveniles were able to see exactly what happens in adult court, because it’s important for them to see that a trend does develop. You go from juvenile court to county court to felony common pleas court, and we’re trying to break that trend,” he said. “There’s consequences for your actions. We’ve got to break that trend for them for the path they’re on in life.”

He added that the court is continuing to work with all colleges and centers of education that wish to work with them.

Costine said the juvenile court holds similar programs where they hold mock trial proceedings at the middle schools. However, he underlined the importance of reaching out to teens as well.

“We’re trying to get to these kids, trying to change their conduct, trying to get them to behave properly to learn something and rehabiliate themselves while they’re juveniles of that kind of criminal behavior doesn’t continue when they’re adults,” he said, adding that this was one of numerous programs from drug court to counseling aimed at intervening before incarceration was necessary.

Costine said Fregiato was very cooperative in allowing visitors in his courtroom to view the results of poor decisions. He added that the proceedings made an impression.

“It really sunk into them to really see what happens,” he said. “Observing that, I thought, would be very effective, and I just hope it gets the message to them and they understand what they need to do.”

Costine hopes to repeat the event if it proves effective. Future sessions would have to be scheduled so they participants do not miss school.

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com