Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice has unveiled a new resource for children across Nodaway County.
Over a three year period, Rice worked with Northwest interactive digital media major junior Brian Dunn II and Northwest Health Science and Wellness Instructor Sarah Creason to develop an activity book focussed on guiding children through the criminal justice system.
The final product “Going to Court in Nodaway County, a Guide and Activity Book for Children,” was released Dec. 26.
“Based upon the three amigos, as I call us, with our ideas and their talent, we were able to put together and publish this coloring book,” Rice said. “I’m so very proud. This is what happens when people work together. This is going to help a lot of kids.”
As prosecuting attorney, Rice sometimes has to deal with cases involving children. Some cases deal with alleged sexual offenses against a child such as child molestation, statutory rape or statutory sodomy.
At times, Rice has felt visiting with children to discuss the criminal justice process is an insufficient process. He then came across an activity book published by a national organization. He took the concept and developed an idea for a book focused on the court process to make discussions easier.
“I always felt that when I visited with children, I am a male and typically would be the age of the person that had done something to the kids,” Rice said. “I cannot expect a child to trust me, so I wanted to find a better way.”
The activity book includes pictures children can color, a word search and a definition activity. There are also brief descriptions related to court included throughout.
Each picture in the book takes what a child may see throughout the criminal justice process, including a Maryville Public Safety police car, as well as the Nodaway County Courthouse. Every drawing was illustrated by Dunn based on pictures of each perspective.
“That was all done purpose, so they can visualize okay this is what it will look like as I’m walking in,” Rice said. “I’m so very proud of that. When you read and look at the language that we use, it was all done on purpose.”
Creason helped Rice put the words into a way children will understand, as court terminology is often complex.
She says the book will help eliminate some of the stress that can be experienced in a courtroom.
“It’s still going to be difficult,” Creason said. “Professionally, I’ve been to court numerous times. It still gives me a little bit of anxiety as an adult when I have to go and the process of it and the formality of it. Especially for a child. We wanted them to have something positive or kind of give them a sense of control over their lives.”
The book will be distributed in several locations around the area, including women’s shelters, police stations, churches and schools. In the end, Rice’s goal is to create a sense of security for children.
“Even if it’s not someone that has an active case, I want the materials available so when a child or if a child has any questions, maybe they just see it in their teacher's room, they might pick it up to the side,” Rice said.