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  • Writer's pictureArmstrong Williams

Moore, Bates and Braveboy call for accountability and rehabilitation during Juvenile Justice Town Hall

February 20, 2024 | www.baltimoresun.com/



Juvenile crime has been the subject of intense debate over the past few years, as Maryland has seen a major uptick in it. The crime ranges from the notorious “squeegee kids” who harassed people in their cars, to the “Kia challenge,” which saw numerous youths exploit the vulnerabilities of certain Kia and Hyundai cars to steal them, to murder, robbery, gang violence and more.


Fox45 Baltimore provided me with the platform to sit down with the governor of Maryland, Wes Moore; Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates; and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy during a critical town hall Monday night to discuss the state of criminality among juveniles in the state. Fox45’s unwavering efforts in reporting on issues such as education and crime — issues that disproportionately affect Black families — and their willingness to bring together the media, the governor and the state’s attorneys for this critical conversation is invaluable.


Governor Moore has gained a reputation for being, what some might call, a law-and-order governor, placing a historic $127 million investment in local law enforcement agencies and proposing legislation to clamp down on juvenile crime. When asked about this, Governor Moore said, “People should also pay attention to what we were saying from our first days, where I said that public safety was going to be the top priority for this administration and we were serious about that. It’s the reason that we made historic investments in local law enforcement.”


The uptick in juvenile crime has led many to question the lax laws on the books, which some say have allowed juveniles to practically escape accountability. I asked Mr. Bates about the importance of prosecutor’s office proposals to require that juveniles who commit certain violent felonies see a judge within 24 hours. He said, “We look at car and car theft cases … for us, the 24-hour window is very important, it allows us, one, to figure out what’s going on with this young person very quickly to try to get this young person services very quickly, but it also allows us to reach out to the witnesses and the victims and the police to put together a very solid case to hold the perpetrator accountable.”


Of course, punishment is not the only solution to solving the juvenile crime problem. These youths need to be rehabilitated so that they can go on to lead successful lives. Ms. Braveboy said on the matter, “For me, it’s being able to have more flexibility with probation, It is really important that our young people are held accountable for any rehabilitative services that are offered through [the Department of Juvenile Services], it’s important that they take advantage of those services. … Individuals who are in our juvenile justice system are responsible to the court to participate in mandated activities to help them become better citizens and if they have not completed that within a prescribed period, being able to extend that period of time should be available to the judge without any issues.”


Mass incarceration is a major problem within the United States and Maryland. Maryland alone has a prisoner population of around 16,000 individuals. Ms. Braveboy said on this topic, “I have never believed that individuals should not be punished and punished appropriately, we have held people accountable. Unfortunately, we have given young people life sentences … but what we know is that 95% of the people who are arrested, prosecuted and convicted are coming home. And so, the question is how are they coming back to us. … We have to give people a realistic pathway to come home and be stronger and better citizens.”


The governor echoed this sentiment, when he said, “I could not agree with her more. … We do have a situation that the vast majority of people who are incarcerated, they’re coming back home at some point, and so how were thinking about… preparing society for their reentry, it’s going to matter.”


In addressing the complexities surrounding family structure, including the challenges of fatherless homes, the burden on single mothers, and the necessity for young men to know what it means to be a man, a critical question arises: How can we revitalize the institution of the family? Governor Wes Moore provided a profound response that sheds light on this issue. He stated, “This is personal to me. I was raised by an immigrant single mom who literally worked three different jobs. … It informs how I think about this. It’s not that my mom had to raise me on her own; she had ministers, she had coaches, she had mentors, she had aunts, uncles and cousins, all who felt a vested interest in making sure that no matter where I was, I was surrounded. … But I knew that I had to be held accountable for my actions.”

Maryland faces many challenges related to juvenile justice. Under its leadership, Governor Wes Moore has signaled that he is more than willing to take on the challenge.


“I’m very proudly the people’s governor, they put me in this seat, they’re the ones who direct where we go… There are four things that people want us to focus on. Make Maryland more safe, make Maryland more affordable, make Maryland more competitive, and keep making Maryland the state that serves and so my instructions come from the people who put us in there.”


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 part of a weekly series written from “The Owner’s Box.”


 

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