Ivan Bates: Academics need to listen to residents of Baltimore’s most vulnerable neighborhoods

Published 3/5/2023 5:30 a.m. EST, Updated 3/6/2023 12:18 p.m. EST

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates speaks to reporters ahead of the hearing of Bill HB481 in Annapolis on February 15, 2023.

We’ve done it the academics’ way for the past eight years. Enough is enough. I’ve attended too many funerals of young Black men who died far too soon from gun violence.

I campaigned on a platform of holding illegal gun offenders accountable. The city’s Black residents told me they are sick and tired of being sick and tired of gun violence in their communities and want these perpetrators to go to jail. They’re exhausted by the discussion of wraparound services with no upfront consequences, resulting in their children and grandchildren becoming the latest victims in the headlines.

Last year, when the overwhelming majority of Baltimore residents, 71%, voted for a change from past progressive policies, they again resoundingly said, “Enough is enough.” Voters mandated a new approach for handling illegal handguns in our city.

A vocal minority speaking out against this bill, most notably the professors who authored “Opinion: Longer prison terms won’t end gun violence” in The Baltimore Banner, are actively contributing to the pervasive rhetoric in Baltimore and across this country that fails to characterize illegal possession of a firearm as a serious offense. One of the recommendations from the report they cite as the Grail states that:

“Baltimore should implement a focused-deterrence strategy, or Group Violence Intervention, which involves identification of individuals and groups that are driving a large share of shootings. This strategy would require coordination among police and prosecutors to collect evidence and warn identified individuals about harsh sanctions if they do not stop the violence.”

The Group Violence Intervention occurs through the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, and HB481/SB889, under consideration by the Maryland General Assembly, is that harsh sanction. These academics fail to recognize that it requires certainty, swiftness and severity of sanctions to collaboratively stop crime.

In the 2022 report, “Length of Incarceration and Recidivism,” the U.S. Sentencing Commission found no statistically significant effect for offenders sentenced to five years’ or less incarceration. Therefore, the commission found no basis to conclude that incarceration for five years or less has a criminogenic effect. That means those sentences do not cause people to be more likely to commit crimes when released, and therefore this bill will not have the damaging impact that its opponents claim.

Residents want to support legislation that makes their communities safer, while others will mount opposition based on their own agendas. Illegal possession of a firearm is a gravely serious offense and should be treated as such, and this bill allows us to do that. As a public servant elected by the people of Baltimore, I am compelled to stand on the side of the community, which is why I strongly support HB481/SB889.

Ivan J. Bates, Baltimore

Ivan Bates is the Baltimore City state’s attorney.

More from The Banner