Hello! My name is Kayla Forbes and I have been attending Basis Independent since the 7th grade. Over the last few years, I have been able to explore my many interests. One interest of mine has been the justice system. My goal is to become a lawyer and then hopefully a Supreme Court Justice when I am older. Since the 9th grade, I have interned at the Red Hook Community Justice Center, the first multi-jurisdictional community court in the nation. This means that one judge is seeing four types of court cases: criminal, family, housing, and civil. In a traditional setting, these cases are handled separately, but Red Hook has combined them because oftentimes, these issues overlap and do not fit into the guidelines of one particular category. This allows for the judge and lawyers to understand cases and help defendants better so that they don’t re-offend. From my experience at Red Hook, I can see differences in the way they approach cases and the justice system as a whole. Rather than focusing on punishment, they focus on why the defendant committed the crime and what they can do to help them. Interning here has allowed me to learn more about restorative justice, which is the focus on rehabilitation through reconciliation with victims and the communities. At the justice center, I have been a part of a program called Youth Impact, previously known as Youth Court. Youth Impact is a program that trains local teenagers to serve as jurors, judges, and attorneys, handling real-life cases involving their peers. Building off the tenets of restorative justice and peacemaking practices, the purpose of Youth Impact is to provide an alternative disposition for juveniles, ages 10-18, who have committed a minor offense and are otherwise eligible for diversion. Made up of members aged 14-18, Youth Impact uses positive peer pressure to ensure that young people not only pay back the community but also receive the help they need to avoid further involvement in the justice system.
Through Youth Impact, I have been a part of different events that aim to make communities better. One event I have been a part of is the Bridging the Gap series. Bridging the Gap is an event that brings together youth and NYPD personnel to engage in fun activities with one another while allowing for public discourse regarding the relationship between youth and police. These events serve as a forum that allows youth and NYPD officers to discuss differences while at the same time realizing that there are many similarities as well. The goal is to humanize each group in the eyes of the other. I have also gotten a chance to meet judges and lawyers from different countries, such as Australia, a country known for visiting the justice center. Representatives from this country are sent to observe the justice center and have brought the information they learned back to their courts, following in our footsteps by implementing certain programs such as Youth Impact.
Using my connections and what I’ve learned through the Red Hook Community Justice Center, the goal of my senior project is not only to learn about the Australian Justice System and how they’ve improved since visiting Red Hook but also see how I can implement more Bridging the Gaps in Red Hook and possibly host one or two in Australia.
Over the coming months, I intend to work at the Red Hook Community Justice Center as well as two juvenile courts in Melbourne, Australia.
To learn more about my Senior Project you can access my Senior Project Proposal: KForbes-SPProposal
I can’t wait for all of you to go on this journey with me!