In each episode of Judge Hatchett, the successful nationally syndicated weekday courtroom series, Judge Glenda Hatchett presides over a court that works to resolve troubling family and juvenile cases with an innovative sentencing approach. Her creative sentencing, which includes intervention and mentoring, are designed to introduce troubled teens to successful professionals in the arts, social activism, athletics and public service who work with the teens in an effort to lead them toward a more productive life.
On February 18, Judge Hatchett enlisted the help of ESSENCE magazine Editorial Director Susan L. Taylor to serve as a mentor to Dee Miller, a teen mother. In the Miller case, Sharron Miller was in court with her mother, Callie Miller, charging that her 17-year-old sister, Dee was an “irresponsible, lazy teen mom” who smokes marijuana all day and refuses to support her son. Sharron said Dee had dropped out of school when she got pregnant at 15.
Dee admitted that she was an unemployed, high school dropout; she had no choice but to stay at home with her baby. She also said her use of the marijuana has never prevented her from taking care of her son.
Judge Hatchett sentenced the teen to spend a day with the powerful editorial director, Susan Taylor, in an effort to show the teen how to chart a path to success.
“My hope was that the relatively few hours Dee would be with me and my ESSENCE family would have a positive impact on her life.” Taylor said. To give Dee a look at the road she had traveled, Taylor took the teen on a tour of the streets of East Harlem where she grew up and shared her struggles as a young, divorced, single mother. They returned to her office at ESSENCE for a day that Taylor says, “Only God could have orchestrated.”
Dee sat in on editorial staff meetings, helped select artwork for upcoming issues of ESSENCE and participated as important decisions were made for the publication. “Mo’Nique and Dorien Wilson were visiting and they spent time with Dee,” Taylor says. “I was having lunch with a group of phenomenal young sisters who are students at my alma mater, Fordham University. In them and in Mo’Nique, because they were all so down to earth, so openhearted in sharing with Dee what they had been through and had overcome, I knew she could see herself, her potential and what she could make of her life if she, like them, made the right choices.
“I just told Dee the truth,” Taylor says, “she is worthy, and that God loves her, no matter what mistakes she may have made. I reminded her that we all mess up at times and that it wasn’t too late to turn her life around. I let her know that I could see her goodness, her greatness.”
Since appearing on the show, Dee has gained a new lease on life. “Dee is doing extremely well since appearing on our show,” Judge Hatchett says. “She has completed training and has graduated as a certified nurses’ assistant in February. She is also taking a high school diploma certification test (GED) soon. Dee’s mother says her daughter has stopped using marijuana and is no longer dating a young man who has had a negative impact on her life. Dee and her family believe that Susan L. Taylor has helped tremendously and that this experience ‘saved Dee’s life.’ “
In a number of cases, Judge Hatchett’s has found her creative sentencing to be successful. “After years on the juvenile court bench, I saw so many young people that needed to be encouraged, and see what greatness looked like up close,” she says. “So, I reached out to Susan L. Taylor, Patti Labelle and (WNBA legend) Sheryl Swoopes as a way of inspiring each of these young people to have dreams and understand that they can achieve their goals if they strive for them, and in the process they will learn so much.”
In addition to Patti LaBelle and Taylor, this season the judge has enlisted the help of celebrities and role models such as R&B sensation Usher and former NBA superstar Alonzo Mourning to work with teens in need and reinforce that in order to succeed in life, one has to be willing to commit to strive for excellence.
For Judge Hatchett, check your local listings for stations and times.