For Immediate Release 9/15/2016
The Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City (SAO) recently received $350,000 in federal grant funding to support its youth programming. Earlier this year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) made up to $50 million available for communities who had experienced civil unrest in the past two years through the Resiliency in Communities After Stress and Trauma (ReCAST) Program. The goal of the program is to assist high-risk youth and families in these communities and promote resilience and equity through implementation of evidence-based, violence prevention and community youth engagement programs.
The SAO was a part of a coalition of government agencies, non-profit organizations, schools and community groups, led by the Baltimore City Health Department, who applied for this grant on behalf of the communities in Baltimore most impacted by the civil unrest. Combined, the coalition was awarded $5 million, distributed evenly over five years, to assist the West Baltimore communities of Sandtown-Winchester, Upton/Druid Heights and Penn North.
The SAO will receive $70,000 each year for five years as part of the grant award. Funds will be used to support existing youth programs in the SAO, Great Expectations and the Junior State’s Attorney Program. Funding will also enable the office to hire a new Youth Coordinator to manage these programs, serve as a liaison to the ReCAST West Baltimore Project team, and explore developing additional youth programs. The new Youth Coordinator will work closely with the SAO’s Community Liaison to West Baltimore, Bilal Ali. The SAO reinstated the Community Liaison Program last year to improve communication with the community and restore trust in the City’s criminal justice system.
"I am extremely ecstatic about this federal grant. said State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. “Since the start of this administration, we have made crime control and prevention with regard to our youth a top priority, recognizing that the best approach to breaking down barriers of distrust between law enforcement and our communities begins with our children. We must invest in preventative ways to get to our children before they get to the criminal justice system, and I'm thrilled to see the federal government recognizes the important need to do the same.”
The SAO recently graduated its second cohort of Junior State’s Attorneys. This summer, 27 rising eighth grade students from ten middle schools throughout the City spent six weeks learning about the criminal justice system, meeting with criminal justice professionals and competing in a mock trial in front of sitting Baltimore City judges. The program exposes students to careers in the criminal justice system while encouraging civic engagement, community awareness and faith in the justice system.
The SAO is also launching its second Great Expectations program for fourth grade students. Great Expectations brings criminal justice professionals to the classroom to engage young students in hands on activities that teach them about the criminal justice system. Last year Great Expectation was hosted at Franklin Square Elementary School. This school year, the program will be hosed at William Pinderhughes Elementary School in West Baltimore.
Both programs are part of the SAO’s new Crime Control and Prevention Unit led by prosecutor Deborah Specter.
“The State’s Attorney’s Office youth programs are life changing for these young scholars,” said Ms. Spector. “These programs increase students’ confidence, expose them to employment opportunities in the criminal justice system, and show them how they can positively impact their communities in the choices they make and careers they pursue.”
SAO’s Director of Legislation and Policy, Lisa Smith, and Policy and Legislative Analyst Shelley Spruill worked with the Department of Health to successfully apply for this grant. Additional ReCAST West Baltimore coalition partners include the University of Maryland, School of Social Work, Elev8 Baltimore, a Division of Humanim, Communities United, No Boundaries Coalition, Black Mental Health Alliance, Roberta’s House, Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, Seeds of Promise, C&C Advocacy, New Lens Youth Media, Holistic Life Foundation, and Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore.