Superior Court judge Verda Colvin didn’t know someone had their smartphone out in her Macon, Georgia courtroom when she spoke from her heart to a group of at-risk teens. And she doesn’t want her words to be on camera again. But what she shared while the camera was recording brought youth in the courtroom to tears, has gone viral around the world, and showed us a fierce maternal love with the power to change lives.
Judge Colvin volunteers to speaks regularly to kids as part of the Bibb County Sheriff’s Department’s “Consider the Consequences” program, which gives at-risk youth aged 9 to 17 a tour of jail and a reality check from Colvin. She told the TV show Inside Edition, “I have a passion for children. We’ve been doing this since May of 2015. Every time I get a list (of children), they become younger, the things they’re doing are more egregious, and I thought ‘I’ve got to go up another notch.’ I never have a script when I do this… I just go with my raw emotion. I typically speak from the heart,” she said. “Those students… most of them looked like they were reachable. I didn’t want to lose one by not going all in. This is my chance to save them.”
On the viral video posted by the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, she is seen saying to young girls, “Young ladies, whether anyone has ever told you before, you are special. You are uniquely made. Stop acting like you’re trash and putting pictures of yourself on the Internet. Stop being disrespectful to your parents. Care about your future. Be somebody. Anybody can be nothing. It doesn’t take anything to be nothing. Care about yourselves. The fact that you’re shedding tears means you want to be better and you want to do better. Do it! … I don’t expect to ever see the three of you all back in my courtroom like this. One day I want you to come tell me, Judge Colvin, I graduated from college.”
To young men, she says, “I don’t know if your moms are like me, I don’t know if they tell you all this is the real deal, buddy, you better get it together. But I’m telling you, if your moms don’t say that, consider me your surrogate mom. Don’t you come up in here. … Nobody else can do what you’re supposed to do in this world. Nobody else. And if you don’t do it we won’t have it! I continue to believe one reason our society is so messed up is because some people who were born to do certain things, just dropped the ball. They didn’t do it. For every person who didn’t use their unique gifts and talents, we are missing something as a society.”
Judge Colvin does not hold back her own emotion in the courtroom, even as the police officers distribute tissues to the youth. “When I see you all hurting, it makes me hurt too. Because I don’t even know you all personally but I love each and every one of you. And I don’t want you to come in my courtroom and have to sentence you as an adult.”
She told USA TODAY, “The joy I get from doing this job is not that I have ‘judge’ attached to my name. Just the fact that I can speak to so many people and encourage them and remind them, there are consequences to your actions. But if you’re willing to go a different route, I’m ready to help you get there. […] I just want our children to know people care about them and we see possibilities in them. I never know these kids personally but they’re in my heart.”
Colvin has said she doesn’t want her talks to be kids to be recorded in future, preferring that they be kept authentic. But it’s been a privilege to witness her fierce compassion in action.