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Activists care more about teen killers than the teens they kill

Activists Care More About Teen Killers Than The Teens They Kill
Activists Care More About Teen Killers Than The Teens They Kill
Ethan Borges, The 17-Year-Old Who Was Allegedly Fatally Stabbed By 15-Year-Old Brandon Perez In The Bronx. Youtube

In a sane city, the arrest of Brandon Perez, a 15-year-old boy, for the mid-September knifing of 17-year-old Ethan Borges, who died of his wounds, would be a major scandal.

Perez was in the midst of a 10-month crime spree that began with an arrest last November for grand larceny. He was arrested three more times since then, most recently carrying a loaded gun, according to police. The gun charge came less than two weeks before Borges was stabbed. Though unlicensed possession of a firearm is a felony, Perez was evidently released pending the disposition of his case.

Evidently, it never occurred to any of the judges, prosecutors or social workers overseeing Perez’s progressive violence that continually releasing him with stern warnings might condition him to expect no consequences to his vicious behavior.

Activists Care More About Teen Killers Than The Teens They Kill
Ethan Borges Died Of His Wounds From The Stabbing. Facebook

The crime-and-impunity problem in New York City is informed by an ideological bias against the principle of incarceration and the insistence that “alternatives” are preferable in all cases, especially for youth. The 2018 implementation of the Raise the Age law meant that 16- and 17-year-old nonviolent offenders would not be held criminally responsible for their acts and would be funneled through the juvenile-justice system.

“Beginning today,” said Mayor de Blasio, “no one under 18 will go to Rikers Island. Kids will be treated like kids instead of adults.”

Whether that’s reasonable or not, an effect of the law was to concentrate resources and attention on older adolescents and let younger offenders, like Brandon Perez, fly under the radar.

Activists Care More About Teen Killers Than The Teens They Kill
A Memorial For Ethan Borges In The Bronx After He Was Killed During An Altercation. Stephen Yang

The city put hundreds of millions of dollars into improving juvenile jails, but to dubious effect: An April 2020 riot at Crossroads Juvenile Center started when inmates broke out of their cells, beat up the guards, and threatened to take over the entire facility. This happened after de Blasio released half of the detainees because of COVID-related fears.

The entire orientation of the administration toward juvenile justice is to minimize contact and to “serve youth through a trauma-informed lens, in the community whenever possible,” explains David Hansell, the head of the Administration for Children’s Services. “Our community-based alternative programs continue to offer prevention and diversion services to safely keep youth out of the justice system and supported in their homes and with their families.”

This sounds great in theory, but doesn’t seem to do much in practice. It created the conditions where a correctable delinquent like Brandon Perez is permitted to spin out of control and possibly murder someone.

Activists Care More About Teen Killers Than The Teens They Kill
The 2018 Raise The Age Law Prevents Teens From Perez From Going To Rikers Island. J.c. Rice

Perez shouldn’t have been detained, the advocates say. But did Borges deserve to die? For teen offenders, particularly members of gangs, we must consider who we are putting at risk under blanket no-bail, no-jail, no-detention policies.

As a further measure of where the city’s priorities regarding youthful offenders lie, consider the career of Vincent Schiraldi, whom de Blasio appointed as the correction commissioner in May. Schiraldi made his name as an advocate of juvenile-justice reform. From 2005 until 2010, he ran Washington, DC’s Youth Rehabilitation Services Department. Schiraldi made headlines when a 17-year-old inmate escaped from a cookout at his house, and Schiraldi didn’t notify the cops for almost three hours. No wonder Rikers has gone from bad to worse.

Activists Care More About Teen Killers Than The Teens They Kill

No one is demanding that young teenagers get locked up in the same cell as hardened adult criminals for their malfeasance. But the existing hands-off system essentially authorizes wayward youth to mature into violent adults by refusing to intercede when it is obviously necessary.

Seth Barron is managing editor of The American Mind and ­author of the new book “The Last Days of New York.”

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