COAHOMA COUNTY, Miss. — A courtroom is not always a place for second chances, but sometimes it is.
“I ask the Lord all the time for second chances,” said Judge Carlos Moore. “When I am dispensing justice I try to temper it with mercy and so sometimes I ‘m going to dispense justice and sometimes I’m going to grant mercy.”
Judge Moore has been giving second chances through a program called Do Better ASAP, which stands for the Alternative Sentencing Accountability Program.
Once in his courtroom, he takes a look at citizens’ profiles and history. If they qualify for the program, he asks questions about their aspirations.
“If they didn’t finish high school I would order them to get a GED. If they’re working at a local fast food place but they want to become a nurse, or they want to become a teacher or something, I’ll make them get in college. Go get admitted to college, go enroll in college and bring me back proof of the same and your fine or your sentence will go away,” he said.
No jail time or fines. Just second chances.
Chandler Wells,17, is a product of the program. In fact, he’s the reason why thousands across the country know about it. The recognition came after Judge Moore posted his photo on social media, introducing him as his top graduate.
“It feels nice but I don’t really like all the attention,” he said.
Chandler has always been a good student and plays four sports, but he hit a rough patch in school around the time he was pulled over by police.
“It was after a basketball game. Some friends were at a stop sign and nobody was coming from either way and I pulled up beside them to ask a question and they just let me in front of them and once I got in front of them I got pulled over,” he recalled.
He was facing a reckless driving charges, but thanks to his work through the program, Judge Moore dismissed it.
“He was very humble and accepted responsibility for his actions,” recalled Judge Moore.
“Once you put a young man in the criminal justice system or young woman, nine times out of ten they become worse before they got in there,” he added.
It’s all about bringing dreams to fruition and starting somewhere with that vision, even if it’s at the courtroom podium.
“The criminal justice system has been set up against people from marginalized or disadvantaged backgrounds for so long,” said Judge Moore. “So while this program is open to everyone, 90 percent of the people that appear before me look like me.”
As a judge, he will do all he can to pay his success forward.