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Spector's advocacy for her attackers merits public attention

Councilwoman Rikki Spector has joined forces with UEmpower of Maryland in mentoring the two teens who violently carjacked her in 2016.

At a time where mandatory sentencing laws require prison terms and deprive judges of discretion to administer fair justice, recent crime victim Rochelle “Rikki” Spector and a community group’s intervention deserve kudos for providing a non-punitive response to violent crime (“Two boys carjacked an 80-year-old Baltimore City Councilwoman. Now she’s their advocate.” Jan. 3).

A victim of a carjacking and assault in her building’s parking garage, former City Councilwoman Spector reacted with understandable anger and feelings of revenge against her 15- and 13-year-old assailants. “Mad as hell” at the time, Ms. Spector appeared in court months later as a witness.

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Ms. Spector’s post-crime reflections, aided by her religious values and with the community-based, UEmpower
Good Samaritans organization providing job training and adult guidance, led to a surprisingly moving in-court interaction when the councilwoman told the teenage defendants, “kids don’t hit grown-ups.” Hearing the defendants express remorse and sadness for what they had done, Ms. Spector voiced her interest in becoming their partner for change and advocated successfully with the prosecutor and judge for probation until they reach 21 years old.

With the future still to be determined, the path looks a lot brighter 13 months later after one teenager remained in a juvenile rehabilitation facility, and the other fulfilled conditions of house arrest while attending school. Last month, Mayor Catherine Pugh and Ms. Spector’s synagogue applauded the boys receiving an award from the Northwest Citizens Patrol for their success as students, in the home and as counselors for youth to lead productive, non-criminal lives.

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The one Baltimore community approach can be an effective, appropriate and crime-fighting alternative to prison for other violent offenders, too.

Doug Colbert, Baltimore

The writer is a professor at the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law.

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