In a healthy city, the arrest of Brandon Perez, a 15-year-old boy, for the stabbing in mid-September of Ethan Borges, 17, who died of his injuries, would be a major scandal.
Perez was in the midst of a 10-month crime spree that began with an arrest last November for robbery. He has been arrested three more times since then, most recently carrying a loaded gun, police said. The gun charge came less than two weeks before Borges was stabbed. Although unlicensed possession of a firearm is a felony, Perez has clearly been released pending a decision on his case.
Obviously, it never occurred to the judges, prosecutors or social workers overseeing Perez’s progressive violence that continually releasing him with stern warnings could condition him not to expect any consequences from his vicious behavior. .
The problem of crime and impunity in New York is motivated by an ideological bias against the principle of incarceration and the insistence that “alternatives” are preferable in all cases, especially for women. youth. The 2018 implementation of the Raise the Age Act meant that 16 and 17-year-old non-violent offenders would not be held criminally responsible for their actions and would be referred to the juvenile justice system.
âFrom today,â said Mayor de Blasio, âno one under the age of 18 will go to Rikers Island. Children will be treated like children instead of adults.
Whether that’s reasonable or not, the law has had the effect of focusing resources and attention on older teens and leaving young offenders, like Brandon Perez, to go unnoticed.
The city has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in improving juvenile prisons, but with questionable effect: An April 2020 riot at the Crossroads Juvenile Center began when inmates were released from their cells, beaten guards and threatened to take over the entire establishment. It happened after de Blasio released half of the detainees over COVID fears.
The whole orientation of the administration towards juvenile justice is to minimize contact and “serve young people through a trauma-informed lens, in the community whenever possible,” says David Hansell, head of the Administration of children’s services. âOur community-based alternative programs continue to provide prevention and diversion services to keep youth safe out of the justice system and supported at home and with their families.â
Sounds good in theory, but doesn’t seem to do much in practice. This created the conditions under which a reparable offender like Brandon Perez is allowed to get out of hand and eventually murder someone.
Perez shouldn’t have been detained, lawyers say. But did Borges deserve to die? For teen offenders, especially gang members, we need to consider who we are endangering under general policies of no bail, no jail and no detention.
As a further measure of the city’s priorities for young offenders, consider the career of Vincent Schiraldi, who de Blasio appointed correctional commissioner in May. Schiraldi has made a name for himself as an advocate for juvenile justice reform. From 2005 to 2010, he headed the Washington, DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. Schiraldi made headlines when a 17-year-old inmate escaped from a barbecue at his home, and Schiraldi did not notify the cops for nearly three hours. No wonder Rikers went from bad to worse.
No one is demanding that young teens be locked in the same cell as hardened adult criminals for their misdeeds. But the current system of non-intervention essentially allows young rebels to become violent adults by refusing to intervene when clearly necessary.
Seth Barron is editor-in-chief of The American Mind and author of the new book âThe Last Days of New Yorkâ.