By Hessie L. Harris

Brian Schwalb, DC Attorney General, is wrong in his soft on youth crime policies.  He has said, “Kids are kids, and when you’re talking about teenagers in particular, ---their brains are developing, their minds are developing, and they are biologically prone to make mistakes.”

With proper parenting, toddlers learn the difference between right and wrong.   Years ago, my then two-year old niece was going through the stage of putting things in her mouth. Most of the very young do that, especially because that is their primary sense.  It was the first one.

At any rate, her father would always stop her from engaging in the “taste test” by saying, “Don’t put that in your mouth!  You don’t know where it has been!” 

One day he had been out grocery shopping and she was with him.  As he approached his front door, he had a bag under one arm, and was carrying her in the other and he put his key ring handle between his teeth intending that to be temporary.   Whereupon, his daughter said, “Daddy take those key out of your mouth!  You don’t know where those keys have been!”   She pointed her finger at him emulating his lectures to her on the subject.

The point is that at two years of age, she had learned the difference between proper and improper conduct.   As time went on, with proper parenting, she learned the difference between right and wrong.  She also learned what actions she could expect to be punished for.  In addition, she learned about what conduct society would punish people for---long before her teenage years,  Of course, that was a long time ago when people, including teens, were punished at law for crimes committed.

It was also the time when Black Americans knew that black teenagers were likely to be the subject of disparate treatment for crimes committed.  Yes, racism was sometimes a factor but often the disparity was because their parents did not have the political and social connections to diminish the punishment their offspring would receive. Furthermore, most such parents were either lower middle class or working class and could not afford good legal representation or bail.   Black parents explained that to their children.   They also explained that a criminal record, even as a juvenile, could negatively affect their prospects for a lifetime.

Fear of the Lord is said to be the beginning of wisdom.  Fear of a loving but no-nonsense parent’s wrath may well be in second place.

But unfortunately, because of prosecutors like Mr. Schwalb,  fear of punishment  for the commission of crime no longer exists.

Shootings, murders, and carjackings often including murder, go unpunished or barely punished and therefore embolden criminals especially youthful offenders.

Ironically meting out punishment due has been called racist.  That type of thinking has also prevented school administrators from reporting  crime occurring in schools, in order to preserve statistics that do not accurately reflect the crimes committed and who has committed them.   However, the most virulent racism is that practiced by Mr. Schwalb and those of his ilk.  Ultimately, the young thugs will finally end up in jail or the morgue.

Maryland Delegate Karen Toles recently stated, “We need to stop making excuses for these kids.  They know exactly what they are doing.”   Her statements reflect public sentiment.

Hard cold fear of consequences will go a long way toward reducing crime.  The more appropriate sentences imposed and served, the quicker the crime rate will go down.


Hessie L. Harris


Hessie Harris is a Member of the Maryland Republican Central Committee from Montgomery County.

Montgomery County Republican Party