Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore’s cabinet appointments have gone over well, with all confirmations facing little pushback — except for one. 

That would be the nominee for the juvenile services secretary, Vincent Schiraldi. Republican senators have pushed back on the nomination, citing views they believe are too radical and lenient on juvenile crime. 

Despite the detractors’ concerns, Schiraldi comes with decades of experience and the right philosophy to make needed improvements to Maryland’s juvenile justice system. For these reasons, Vincent Schiraldi should be confirmed as the juvenile services secretary. 

Schiraldi has more than 40 years of experience in criminal justice reform focused on juvenile offender rehabilitation. He founded the Justice Policy Institute and the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, two nonprofits focused on reducing the use of incarceration as a primary response to social issues. 

Schiraldi also served as director of Washington, D.C.’s Department of Youth and Rehabilitative Services for five years, where he helped create its rehabilitation center, New Beginnings. The center not only improved living conditions for its juveniles, but its therapy model and access to rehabilitative programs cut rearrests by 39 percent. 

One of Schiraldi’s most radical beliefs is in youth prison abolition, and he’s argued in the past that youth prisons should be replaced with rehabilitative facilities closer to the juveniles’ homes. New York’s Close to Home initiative created a system following this idea by moving New York City’s juveniles out of prison to temporary and less restrictive housing. Its focus on strengthening support systems and expanding access to rehabilitative programs has led to a 53 percent decline in youth arrests and a 37 percent decline in youth detention.

With Maryland incarcerating more than 1,000 juveniles in 2021, Schiraldi’s rehabilitative approach may be exactly what we need to best help our at-risk youth.

Schiraldi also takes the strong stance that offenders in their mid-twenties should be tried in the juvenile system. He justifies this by citing research that young adults’ brains are not fully developed yet, making them more likely to be affected by peer-pressure, risk-taking and impulses. This can make young adults more vulnerable to poor decision-making and criminal behavior. Eighteen to 24 year olds also have the highest recidivism rate of any age group and are the most crime-prone age group. This also means this group has the most to benefit from a more rehabilitative juvenile approach.

This is where many opponents of Schiraldi take issue, arguing that such policies are too lenient and don’t hold offenders accountable. However, Schiraldi calls for raising the juvenile age to 21 and granting only diminishing protections to people up to 25. In this system, young adults would receive a middle ground of legal repercussions, not complete leniency. 

This isn’t to say Schiraldi has an easy path to reform. There are many practical barriers to his goals. Maryland was ranked second in the country in 2021 for children automatically sent to adult sentencing. These children are exposed to the harms of adult prison and are more likely to reoffend. 

That’s the opposite of what benefits Maryland. We need a highly ambitious juvenile services secretary who would benefit Maryland’s juvenile system through reform. Schiraldi’s confirmation would be exactly what we need.

Maryland’s youth is our future, and we need to start investing in them, rather than locking them up. Confirming Schiraldi’s appointment is a step toward a brighter future for all Marylanders. 

Kyra Freeman is a sophomore philosophy, politics and economics major. She can be reached at