A Senate nominations committee on Wednesday voted along party lines to advance Gov. Wes Moore’s juvenile services Cabinet pick to the full Senate.
There was no discussion during the brief committee vote on Acting Secretary Vincent Schiraldi, but Republican senators passed out a statement afterward saying they “cannot in good faith support this appointee.”
“While the Acting Secretary of Juvenile Services may be academically qualified for this role, our caucus is concerned his radical reform philosophies would further exacerbate an out-of-balance system that treats offenders as the victims and neglects the true victims’ rights to justice,” the statement said.
Republican caucus members on Monday had delayed Schiraldi’s vote until their members had a chance to discuss his policies, which Senate Minority Leader Stephen Hershey called “extremely controversial.” But their vote Wednesday showed they still weren’t satisfied.
The senators said that while second chances are important, they’re concerned about “the significant increase” in juvenile crime and added that “grown-up actions necessitate grown-up consequences.”
The caucus objected to what they called the criminal justice reformer’s “untested philosophies.”
Reached by text Wednesday, Hershey did not immediately provide the crime statistics cited in the statement and did not specify which of Schiraldi’s philosophies the caucus characterized as radical or untested.
Schiraldi declined to comment on the Republican caucus’s statement.
Schiraldi pledges accountability
During Monday’s hearing, Republican committee members pressed Schiraldi for his plans to protect citizens from violent juveniles in the system.
“Many in Maryland don’t think we’re doing enough to protect against violent offenders and violent juveniles,” Sen. Mary Beth Carozza said.
Schiraldi told the senator, who represents the lower Eastern shore, that he will provide high-intensity services for those children with violent histories while at the same time offering them opportunities to turn their lives around. He also said he would personally keep tabs on them.
“As secretary, I need to know what’s going on with every one of our highest risk young people,” he told Carozza. “And I’m pledging to you that I’m gonna know what’s happening with them all.”
Track record of reform, one high-profile miss
Schiraldi, a veteran public official and policy researcher, has a track record of sustained criminal justice reform. He remade D.C.’s broken juvenile justice system into a national model of youth rehabilitation and transformed New York City’s probation department by cutting the number of people who returned to jail on technical parole violations.
However, his attempts at reform have not always been welcomed.
When Schiraldi led the New York City Department of Correction, he was tasked with closing and fixing the punitive culture at the dangerous Rikers Island jail compound. Seventeen people died at Rikers between January and October of 2022, the year after he left, according to a federal monitor’s report.
Long before his arrival, a federal judge placed the city under a consent decree after finding officers used excessive force against adolescents.
During Schiraldi’s seven month stint, the ongoing problem of sick leave abuse continued. Officers fearing for their safety called in sick or just didn’t show up by the thousands each month, and jails became unsafe for inmates and officers who came to work.
Schiraldi drew up policies to get officers back to work, which instead angered union leaders. In response, they lobbied Mayor Eric Adams and his advisers for “uniform-friendly” changes. Adams replaced Schiraldi with former New York City Police detective Louis Molina.
Schiraldi founded two criminal justice think tanks, including the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice and the Justice Policy Institute, and worked as a lead researcher at the Columbia Justice Lab.
This article may be updated.