The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Judge John Stevens has prosecuted enough criminals in his day to notice a common denominator.
“Many of them did not finish high school, and that gets me very frustrated,” Stevens, who presides over the criminal district court in Jefferson County, told an audience of Thomas Jefferson Middle School students on Thursday. “If you don’t finish high school, there’s a good chance you’re going to end up in my court. Education helps you make the right choices.”
In honor of Constitution Day, which fell on Tuesday, Sept. 17, Stevens emphasized the crucial role education plays in decision making, and reiterated the importance of choices in everyday life. To give the students a more thorough understanding of why laws are in place, he outlined the preamble of the Constitution.
“It’s only five things — be fair, live in peace, help others, act with courage and defend your principles, and always think of the future,” Stevens said. “Those are very virtuous ideas.”
Stevens was also keen to illustrate the consequences of a society where the tenants of the Constitution are violated without repercussion.
“People are always worried that if the laws do not handle problems properly, then bullies become the bosses,” Stevens said. “Thugs run the streets.’
The program ended with longtime Beaumont police officer John Dean sharing his experiences as a homicide investigator. He spoke of the disenchantment that came about when he noticed that both the victims and the perpetrators were growing younger and younger.
“I’ve seen a lack of respect for life,” he said.
Dean added that, if one is convicted for murder, the prison sentence is a minimum of 40 years.
“All the trappings of life are not going to be there when you get out,” he said.
Dean wrapped up the program by echoing Stevens’ statements on the power of choice.
“The choice is yours, and lack of education limits your choices in life,” he said. “But any challenge before you, if you put your mind to it, you can fulfill that challenge.”