In Forsyth County (NC), District Court Judge Denise Hartsfield uses pineapples to offer system-involved teens a fresh start. She keeps the pineapples on the bench to remind teens of the court’s role in their lives. Speaking to the Winston-Salem Chronicle, Judge Hartsfield explained:
“Since the pilgrims came in colonial days, the pineapple has been a symbol that means welcome,” she said. “I want everyone to feel welcome and to be very comfortable on this journey… There are going to be some slips – there are going to be some falls – but the pineapple tells us that we’re all welcome here and we’re all working together.”
Hartsfield likened the teens to the fruit, which she said has a “rough, prickly” exterior, but “what’s inside is fleshy, juicy, sweet and absolutely wonderful.” Hartsfield told the youth that many of the defendants who come before her – both young and old – land in her courtroom because of an alcohol or drug addiction.
“One of the goals that I would have is trying to make sure that you never have to see adult court,” she said. “…I anticipate that we’re going to have a great deal of pineapples in here, and we’re going to celebrate some folks.”
Forsyth County is one of three counties that recently received federal funding to implement the Reclaiming Futures model. Through the Reclaiming Futures model, the court brings together treatment providers, community members and probation officers to provide treatment and rehabilitation to troubled teens.
Liz Wu is a Digital Accounts Manager at Prichard Communications, where she oversees digital outreach for Reclaiming Futures and edits Reclaiming Futures Every Day. Before joining the Prichard team, Liz established the West Coast communications presence for the New America Foundation, where she managed all media relations, event planning and social media outreach for their 6 domestic policy programs. Liz received a B.A. in both Peace and Conflict Studies and German from the University of California at Berkeley. She tweets from @LizSF.