Upper Marlboro Courthouse. (Courtesy Photo)

CAPITOL HEIGHTS — Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy kicked off the State of the Millennials Committee with a social meeting at Dave and Busters in Capitol Heights where those interested in joining the committee had the opportunity to learn about the state’s attorney’s goals for the committee and meet with other members on Aug. 8.

The goal of the committee is to focus on developing ideas for justice reform in Prince George’s County.

The group will collaborate with other county nonprofits and community groups and engage them through discussions, happy hours and issue forums.

“It’s really an opportunity to get feedback from those who are most impacted by the criminal justice system,” Braveboy said. “My goal is to create prosecutors in the office that don’t simply turn to prosecution as a way to resolve problems in our community but become real problem solvers and do the hard work and determine what the best approaches to create real safety are, not just now but in the future.”

She added that although in some cases, the best thing is to prosecute, in other cases, those issues should be diverted from prosecution to form another outcome and change behavior.

“We’ll talk about just diversion generally so that we can begin to look at alternatives to prosecution, especially with low-level offenders,” she said. “And then we’ll also talk about things like cybercrimes that impact young people like cyberstalking and revenge porn and some of the crimes that involve sexual exploitation, especially using the internet.”

Braveboy wanted to specifically get millennials involved in the process due to their age group making up over a quarter of the U.S.’s voting population.

With the millennial generation defined by the Pew Research Center as anyone who is born between the years 1981 and 1996, they hold a significant stake in the future of the county and the nation.

“They (millennials) are our future,” Braveboy said. “Most of the people we prosecute are millennials. So we want them to help us to address the issues of their peers.”

While the committee did not have discussions on any specific topic during the meeting, the main objective of it was for those interested in joining the committee to socialize, get to know others who would be joining and share ideas amongst themselves about their hopes for justice reform in the county.

“It’s really important that we have your ears and your input about what happens in our county from the state’s attorney’s perspective,” said LaKuita Bittle, who will serve as the chair of the committee.

“We really want to make sure that we involve people who not just are attorneys, but those who are leaders in the community in terms of what is happening with criminal justice reform.”

Abigail Mobit, a recent graduate from the University of Maryland, attended the kickoff event with the hope of being able to make a difference.

As a political science major, she is interested in criminal justice and prison reform within Prince George’s County, so she wanted to see what the State of the Millennials Committee was all about.

“Most people that are being prosecuted are millennials, so it is my generation, which is sad. I would think we would be better than that,” she said. “We need to be making sure as millennials, we are helping to bring solutions so that when it comes to the younger generation that is coming after us, and maybe even younger, it can be better.”

Jennifer Gillyard, a member of the AMOS Social Justice Ministry at her church in Upper Marlboro and a social worker in Washington, D.C., said she was interested in the committee because she wanted to understand better the issues facing the millennial generation and ways to get involved.

One aspect of that she was especially interested in was trauma and how it affects young people.

Gillyard is involved in an initiative with her church called Handle With Care, where they partner with local law enforcement so a student’s school and teachers are notified if they experience significant trauma outside of school so that the school can assist.

Through that program and her social work, Gillyard said she recognizes how trauma contributes to young people getting in trouble with the law. With the millennials committee, she wants “to make sure we are looking at programs like that.”

One of Braveboy’s goals is to ensure that the goal of the prosecutors and attorneys in Prince George’s County is to be problem solvers. While they will certainly prosecute when appropriate, such as a case the State’s Attorney’s Office won that day where a police officer assaulted a homeless man, another part of the job is to provide solutions to the problems in the county.

Another one of those solutions is the juvenile justice reform plan that Braveboy launched on July 31.

The plan centers on diversion by stopping young offenders from being convicted of a crime in exchange for accepting help for mental illness, drug abuse, homelessness or other factors that led them to crime or violence.

The State of the Millenials Committee will be tasked with informing decisions like that and helping to make a change in the county from the perspective of a younger generation.

“It’s one thing to sit behind social media and just follow or just to hashtag to spread the issue but is that really bringing change? No,” Mobit said. “Is it just to be a part of a movement and then when it dies back to life and then we’re not really getting to the issue. I’m at a point in my life where I just want to be active and there.”

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