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Hogan showed poor judgment in juvenile sentencing veto | READER COMMENTARY

Menard Prison in Chester, Illinois where there is a nascent campaign to change Illinois law to allow parole for juveniles sentenced to life in prison without parole. (Chicago Tribune photo by John Smierciak)
Menard Prison in Chester, Illinois where there is a nascent campaign to change Illinois law to allow parole for juveniles sentenced to life in prison without parole. (Chicago Tribune photo by John Smierciak) (John Smierciak / Chicago Tribune)

I have been a Democrat all of my life. I grew up in a politically active Black Baltimore family. I shall never forget my father telling me that he was going to cast his vote for a Republican gubernatorial candidate in the 1966 Maryland election. A fracture among Maryland Democrats had resulted in George P. Mahoney winning the Democratic nomination. He was a perennial candidate who had some Donald Trump type ideas about certain issues. I remember explaining to my younger siblings that his campaign slogan, “A man’s house is his castle,” was a thinly-veiled promise to continue the intentional pattern of housing segregation that afflicted the Baltimore that I grew up in. In early 1966, few people thought that Baltimore County Executive Spiro Agnew had “an ice cube’s chance in hell” of being elected governor of Maryland. He won because of the racist overtones of his opponent. I always found it odd that the county executive of a county where redlining and restrictive covenants kept Black families from buying “all the home they could afford” could appeal to Black and liberal voters, but he did.

I personally like Larry Hogan. Yumi Hogan is an awesome first lady, and the governor’s life story is compelling. I disagreed with his canceling the Red Line, which I thought would revitalize the Edmonson Avenue corridor and for which the federal government had committed a lot of money. Some friends told me that my sentiments may have been clouded by my memories of regular Saturday afternoon visits to Edmonson Village Shopping Center before James Rouse built Mondawmin Mall near my West Baltimore home.

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Nevertheless, Governor Hogan’s veto of the Juvenile Restorative Justice Bill is troubling (”Maryland legislators pass landmark police reform package into law, overriding Gov. Hogan’s vetoes,” April 10). Some time ago, I explained to Governor Hogan that convicted people do not go to prison alone. When a man or woman is sentenced to prison, his or her loved ones “go to prison” as well. The $20 telephones calls, poor medical care, inflated commissary prices in correctional facilities make things worse. I wish the governor could witness a 26-year-old father hugging his young daughters as they are about to end the visit at Jessup. “Daddy, when are you coming home?”

The criminal justice system in America is wrought with racial and class bias. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court began recognizing that juveniles require very different treatment when they get caught up in the criminal justice system. For many years, many courts have come to recognize there is the lack of prefrontal cortex development in young male brains. The bill establishes a process by which juvenile offenders may seek reconsideration of prior sentences if they were convicted as an adult and have been imprisoned. There is no blanket change. Perhaps Mr. Hogan vetoed the bill because he thinks that doing so will broaden his national appeal to Republican voters. I hope that is not the case. It is simply wrong.

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Roland Nicholson, Jr., Baltimore

The writer is past chairperson of the Fortune Society, an organization devoted to criminal justice reform.

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