NAACP discusses at-risk youth
Dozens of community members gathered for a NAACP-hosted town hall meeting on Saturday at Bethel Community Church in Bryans Road to discuss primarily what adults can do to prevent at-risk youth from entering or returning to the criminal justice system.
Charles County States Attorney Tony Covington (D) was in attendance, fielding questions and facilitating discussion in open-dialogue.
Many agreed there is not the same sense of community they had been accustomed to when they were younger, and that adults should strive to serve as role models to children through positive reinforcement — even though they may only be a neighbor. They hope to re-establish that sense through meetings such as this.
“Education is everything,” said Janice Wilson, president of the Charles County NAACP chapter. “You can never give up on a child,” adding that parents need to be willing to go the extra mile for their children to ensure they are doing well in school and staying out of trouble.
While the vast majority of kids are doing all the right things, said Covington, it’s not hard to determine the youths that are committing crimes; they are the same ones who have poor attendance at school.
“The kids that need to be reached the most, are often the hardest to get to,” he said. “Never miss the opportunity to impart some wisdom.”
Regarding concerns of mental health, Covington said the school system is often the best way to catch a potential problem before it arises. While there are treatment options available, “How are you going to get the kids to the resources?” he asked, when the parents are not willing to make it a priority?
But not everything can be blamed on bad parenting, some pointed out.
“The accountability has to happen before they get to the courthouse,” said Ted Jones, Chief Investigator for the States Attorneys Office. “Young people have to make the right decision themselves.”
And adults have to encourage young people to always do the right thing, he continued, all the time.
Several men and women in the group suggested kids would benefit from a recreational boys and girls club that would offer a positive after-school environment, as well as introduce children to community role models.
“It is something that we definitely need in Charles County,” agreed Covington, adding that community-participation in local government affairs is critical to implementing change. “I can’t say it enough: what the citizens demand from their government, they will get, but they have to demand it.”
Tiara Williams, a 17-yearold rising senior at Thomas Stone High School, suggested that the best way to reach young people is through another young person. Kids are most likely to listen to someone their own age, she said.
Williams’ suggestion snowballed as many others thought that was a good idea, and perhaps there might be a way to designate young ambassadors to reach out to troubled teens.
When the conversation shifted to how teens should interact when stopped by police, Jones — who was a long-time Maryland State Police trooper — advised that regardless of the circumstance, they should always comply with an officer to avoid escalating the situation.
“Most officers aren’t looking to arrest you, they’re just looking for you to comply with their directive,” he said.
Challenge it in court, not on the side of the road, Covington advised.
At the conclusion of the two-hour discussion, Wilson thanked everyone in attendance and urged them to take what they heard and apply to in their lives.
“I think this has been a powerful conversation,” said Wilson. “And now we have to get to work.”
Charles County States Attorney Tony Covington (D) facilitates discussion about what can be done to prevent youth from entering the criminal justice system with NAACP chapter president Janice Wilson at a town hall meeting on Saturday.
Tiara Williams, a 17–year–old rising senior at Thomas Stone High School, chimes in at a town hall meeting focused on the discussion of at-risk youth. Williams suggested that troubled teens may be more likely to listen to advice given by someone of their own age.
Ted Jones, chief investigator with the Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office, speaks at the town hall meeting, discussing accountability and how teens should act when confronted by law enforcement.