The Georgia judge who brought a group of at-risk youths to tears when she appealed to their consciences and sense of family had no idea that her impassioned speech would go any further than her courtroom.
“I was just being who I am… that was nothing new for me,” said Judge Verda Colvin, whose mix of brutal honesty and motherly compassion was caught on camera and shared with the world.
“Unbeknownst to me, it was recorded,” she told InsideEdition.com with a laugh. “Going forward, I don’t really want any part of my (talk) to be recorded. To me, I want the kids to know we’re authentic. That takes away from my authenticity.”
Colvin is trying to reach children enrolled in the Bibb County Sheriff’s Department’s “Consider the Consequences” program, which is designed to show participants the possible consequences of their actions.
Children as young as 9 up until they are 17 years old can participate in the program, which includes an eight-hour jail tour and a reality check from Colvin.
“What do you want to do? That’s the question you have to ask yourself: 'what do you want to do?'” Colvin can be heard telling the children in the video, going as far as to hold up a body bag to the courtroom.
“Listen to me; the way you’re going, you will go to jail or you will end up in this body bag,” she warned the kids. “The only way someone will know you are in here is by this tag with your name on it.”
The frank language came after nearly a year of working with children through the program, Colvin said.
“I have a passion for children. We’ve been doing this since May of 2015, and I’ve kind of gone up several notches,” she told IE.com.
“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,’” she said, noting that some children she spoke with in the video had been involved in offenses including drug use, fighting, burglaries, truancy and affiliated with gangs.
“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.”
Colvin made it a point to remind the group that they have something more to offer this world than what landed them in the courtroom, noting that she was sick of seeing young men of color in trouble.
“I am sick and tired of people who look like you and I (black) come in my courtroom, and I have to sentence them to prison,” said Colvin, the first African-American female Superior Court Judge in the Macon Judicial Circuit.
“You have to meet society where it is,” she told IE.com. “I’ve got an African American son who is 20, a daughter who is 12. We’ve got things wrong (in society) … I get it. But in the interim, do what’s right. It’s simple math.”
The single mother of two appealed to the kids to consider what they’re putting their parents through, a feeling the judge said she identified with.
“The kids were very emotional, and seeing them hurt caused me to share in a way that was very intimate,” she said. “My son has never had problems where he had to go to programs like this … but it particularly wretches the heart. Their parents care about them.
"Their parents signed up for this, committed to being involved for a year. I tell them ‘you are lucky enough to have somebody’ … it becomes emotional when you see kids running away from their futures," she continued.
“I told them before; I don’t begin to know everything that’s happened in your household. You may be dealing with some things … don’t let it win twice. Don’t let it win while you’re a kid … and then let it dictate your future.”
Colvin has received countless accolades from viewers from as far as the Middle East who were touched by the video, she said.
“I was a little miffed when that video was taken,” she admitted with a laugh. “But I’ve been hearing from all these people, ‘I’ve made my children sit down and listen to it, I’ve made my nieces and nephews, I made my class watch.’ All I could think was ‘wow. What an impact we’ve made without ever leaving the confines of Macon, Georgia. Everybody everywhere realized that children are hurting. And they need some real talk.”
Colvin, who proudly described herself as not being a “social media person,” said it will be important to keep her courtroom camera-free going forward.
“People have said ‘oh she must want a reality show, nothing will change these kids.’ You can’t fee into that negativity,” she said. “People can see realness, they can go to that. I’m not going to do a reality television show… I came here to serve.
“I think everybody recognizes we have to be all in. Ultimately all of these children are all our children; these are our kids because this is our future.”