February 6, 2024 | www.baltimoresun.com
Gov. Wes Moore, shown here at speaking at the State House in January, recently released a plan to bring stronger accountability to Maryland’s juvenile justice system, along with House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson. FILE (Barbara Haddock Taylor/staff photo)
February 6, 2024 at 5:45 a.m.
One of the most dangerous things a leader can do, be it mayor, governor or other prominent elected official, is send a message that you can break the law. Tragically, anti-law-and-order leaders are not uncommon nationwide. Particularly affected states are those such as Maryland, New York and California, whose leaders have enacted policies that permit flagrant criminal activity and violent acts of injustice with minimal, if any, repercussions. Nevertheless, the situation in Maryland could soon change, thanks to their governor, Wes Moore, who is adopting an extremely bold approach to combating crime.
We need not look any further than within our own borders in order to discover the ludicrous consequences that progressive agendas have. It was recently discovered that a teenage offender who had been convicted of rape was found to be attending high school in the state. This is incomprehensible and occurred under the watchful eye of Maryland’s very own Secretary of Juvenile Services, Vincent Schiraldi.
In addition to being a student freely attending the school with other students, the perpetrator of the rape had never been committed to a DJS facility. Instead, the only actions that were taken against him were that he was placed on probation, he was provided counseling, and he was ordered to abstain from having any contact with children who were younger than 15 years old. Based on media reports, the teen has also been charged with a second rape of a 2-year-old in April 2022.
Apparently, the view of the Department of Juvenile Services and state law is that parents, teachers, students and administrators have no right to know a rapist is in their classroom. How insane is that?
How many more similar cases of violent criminals in classrooms are there today across the state of Maryland? Much credit to Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek Barron and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy for working with Governor Moore to fix this crisis.
And let’s be clear, this is par for the course for Schiraldi, who, in 2008, was the subject of a comprehensive investigation as the Director of D.C.’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, where it was found that he broke at least five policies, some inmates received preferential treatment, and one inmate escaped for a period of 22 days during a cookout held by Schiraldi.
However, all of this is about to change as a result of recently introduced legislation by Governor Wes Moore and legislative leaders of the Maryland General Assembly in response to growing public concern over the increase in juvenile delinquency. In addition to increasing the probationary period for juveniles, this groundbreaking legislation expands the jurisdiction of the Department of Juvenile Services to encompass individuals under the age of 13 who commit firearm offenses, sexual offenses and animal cruelty.
Governor Wes Moore said of the bill, “We need accountability when someone repeatedly violates the law, yes, but we also need accountability for the adults and the systems responsible for preventing and responding to those situations.”
Constantly, the main argument in favor of lenient treatment of criminals appears to be that they are human beings, many of whom are enduring difficult circumstances and therefore do not merit the severe punishments they receive. However, this conveniently neglects the victims of the crimes. It conveniently forgets that people will be legitimately afraid to leave their homes, afraid to patronize local businesses, afraid to live their lives, because they’re fearful of becoming the next victim of a petty crime or a violent act.
Maryland is confronted with a multifaceted crisis. It is experiencing an education crisis. It is also confronted with a juvenile violence crisis. These two go hand-in-hand. When students are receiving substandard education and are failing out of school, they are virtually compelled to engage in criminal activity. For this reason, an aggressive stance on crime is itself insufficient. Merely imprisoning individuals is insufficient. Because for every individual incarcerated, 10 more are at risk of making the transition from the failing Baltimore education system to prison. This is a step in the right direction, but it won’t solve the problem entirely. Youth need to be in schools, not on the streets; they need to be learning in classrooms, not learning how to shoot a gun. If we can change that, we can fix Maryland, and Governor Wes Moore is the man who will do just that.
Armstrong Williams (www.armstrongwilliams.com; @arightside) is a political analyst, syndicated columnist and owner of the broadcasting company, Howard Stirk Holdings. He is also part owner of The Baltimore Sun. This column is one of two he writes monthly about culture and politics, in addition to his weekly Owner’s Box column.