By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy unveiled her first “State of Justice Report” to the County’s legal community on Sept. 11, with an unwavering commitment to juvenile justice reform. As she has stated on numerous occasions since taking office earlier this year, “ending the school-to-prison pipeline” is the first step to reform young offenders.
“I am committed to ending the school-to-prison pipeline because I believe in our young people and value their future,” Braveboy said. “I am investing the time and resources of my office to get them on a path to success.”
In her address at The Hotel in College Park, Braveboy noted that for the first time ever, the State’s Attorney’s Office supported resentencing for a juvenile serving a life prison sentence. She also announced harsher penalties against violent gang members who she claims are becoming younger.
“When my prosecutors have to contemplate prosecuting a 14-year-old in a gang-related death of another 14-year-old we must and we will take action,” Braveboy said.
The County plans to host its first Juvenile Justice Summit at Bowie State University in November for youth and adults to identify causes of deviant behavior. The summit may also yield recommendations on state legislation for juvenile criminal justice reform.
Among other programs, the State’s Attorney stated her office is committed to include: more drug treatment, mental health counseling and diversion programs, which are designed to keep some juvenile offenders out of the criminal justice system. Braveboy also promised greater attention to cases of domestic violence and special victims, including children and human trafficking.
The State’s Attorney’s Office also plans to ask the Maryland General Assembly later this year to increase penalties on strangulation which is one of the most common assaults in domestic violence cases.
However, Braveboy is also vowing to reform cases involving vehicular manslaughter as well. The challenges that go with prosecuting criminal incidents involving motorists such as getting prompt toxicology results and crash reconstruction means it often takes up to 10 months before there can be an indictment. She said her office is working to reduce that average time adding they recently brought an indictment in such a case in less than one month.
Braveboy did her best to try and ease the concerns of the Prince George’s County immigrants. She had a simple message to members of that community who become victims of crime.
“We don’t cooperate with federal agencies when it comes to issues of immigration,” she said. “That is not our job. Our job is simply to seek justice.”
Braveboy also announced during her 40 minute speech that, as of Oct. 1, her office will no longer request cash bail as a condition of release before trial for specific offenses since it keeps poor people in jail because they simply cannot afford to pay for bail.
“We hope that the steps we are taking will serve as an example to other decision-makers that there are other alternatives,” Braveboy said. “No one who is not a threat or danger to our community should be in jail pre-trial.”
Braveboy said she is also asking the County for increased funding to raise pay for her staff so that compensation is fair and competitive for the prosecutors on her staff.