Before It's Too Late
New Effort By Prince George’s States Attorney’s Office Aims At Intervening In Young Lives Before Bad Behavior Leads To Criminal Habit
There is a move to reform than just the criminal justice system. Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha N. Braveboy recently unveiled her comprehensive youth justice reform plan, which is aimed at reducing the number of juveniles that enter the criminal justice system.
“Reforming the juvenile justice system is one of my top priorities. Often we see young people coming into the criminal justice system for minor offenses,” Braveboy said. “But when you peel back the layers you find they have faced mental health issues, abuse, homelessness and other problems that have led them down this path. I believe with intervention and other solutions we can make a difference in their lives.”
The State’s Attorney’s office reports national studies show that 52 to 57 percent of juvenile delinquents continue to offend up to the age of 25. According to a University of Maryland College of Education study, the number of in-school arrests (the total number of arrests in the state of Maryland), from 2015-2016 was 2,759. Prince George’s County represents 21% of that number - the highest in the state.
“We must break that cycle,” Braveboy says. “We must also break the school to prison pipeline.“
In light of that, Braveboy has renamed and restructured the Youth Justice Reform unit in her office to include seasoned attorneys and staff who look beyond the crime and seek the cause of the actions of youth offenders.
This unit will also partner with various law enforcement, public health and community partners that will assess juveniles for any necessary social support, counseling, tutoring and family intervention.
The partners include Prince George’s County Public Schools; Prince George’s County Office of the Sheriff; Community Public Awareness Council, Key Bridge Center for Conflict Resolution and Jordan Peer Recovery; WIN Family Services and Interdynamics, Inc.
Braveboy added, “These partners have pledged to work collectively and bridge the gap to provide services for our youth in the places where they need assistance. The priority for this network of non-profits and community partners will be to chip away at the school to prison pipeline.”
In addition, the State’s Attorney’s Office, in partnership with Bowie State University’s Criminal Justice Department, will hold Prince George’s County’s first Youth Justice Summit in November. This will be an annual event that convenes stakeholders to identify the root causes of behavior that leads juveniles into the criminal justice system. Attendees will also work to develop comprehensive policies and initiatives around youth justice reform.