There have been a number of lessons learned from the widespread unrest in the aftermath of the tragic in-custody death of Freddie Gray.

One such lesson is that actions matter more than words.


That makes the news that the Board of Public Works recently voted to spend $30 million to warehouse non-violent juveniles all the more depressing ("State approves $30 million youth jail," May 13).

Have we learned nothing from the many citizens who have taken to streets throughout Baltimore and around the nation?

Their cries for equal treatment under the law, for access to jobs, and economic development in distressed neighborhoods, were loud and sustained.

Apparently, some among us refuse to listen.

A little more than two years ago, with advocates locked in a fierce battle against then-Gov. Martin O'Malley's plans to spend $70 million to build a youth jail, I made the case to invest those precious dollars on programs that would benefit youth and are proven to help prevent juvenile delinquency.

Since then, juvenile rates of delinquency have remained at record lows, and research continues to disprove widely-adopted tough-on-crime policies. I wrote about how our continued focus on punitive measures failed our children and left them unable to become productive citizens as adults.

"We have a juvenile justice system that is failing our children, and the answer is not to throw millions of dollars down the drain building a new jail," I wrote in October 2012.

As we face a lack of investment in public education, after-school programming, youth employment and recreation, the answer is not to double-down on a failed policy of spending additional money to arrest and lock up our youth.

Now is the time to put our money where our mouths are and prove that our children are worth fighting to save.

That's I recently wrote Gov. Larry Hogan to request that he increase funding for after-school programs and community schools.

With the governor's help we could provide our students with opportunities to thrive and grow into successful adults.

It's a commitment that could pay dividends for Baltimore City and the broader region.

Bernard C. "Jack" Young, Baltimore

The writer, a Democrat, is president of the Baltimore City Council.