Earl Monroe, Jr. was 14 when police first arrested him. In a little more than a year, officers picked him up 10 more times; he was dealing drugs on the streets of his West Baltimore neighborhood, reports the Baltimore Sun. After each arrest, he entered a juvenile system that’s supposed to provide treatment and, if necessary, detention. But every time Earl was arrested, juvenile justice workers and judges released him, only to see him return. The court didn’t order any services until his fourth arrest. With with his 11th arrest, in April, the courts ordered him released after less than a month of detainment. First, he was sent home with an electronic monitoring anklet and told not to leave his family’s rowhouse. On June 22, a judge ordered the anklet removed. Four days later, Earl was shot in the head and killed.
“There’s a lack of immediate accountability,” said Joyce L. Wright, chief of the city state’s attorney’s office juvenile division. “Kids think the juvenile justice system is a joke because nothing happens.” Prosecutors and others complain that today’s juvenile justice system was designed for teenagers being arrested after throwing rocks or getting into fights – not dealing drugs or carrying guns. A span of several months between arrest and sentencing might not be considered long in the adult court system, time moves differently for youths in need of swift feedback. Because most young alleged offenders are set free soon after arrest, short delays allow them to get arrested over and over, slipping further toward lives of crime. “They just don’t have consequences quickly enough,” said health commissioner Dr. Peter L. Beilenson. “In all this legal stuff, what’s being lost is that these kids are being released too quickly, kids are being shot, shooting others and dying.”