Educate, Don’t Incarcerate


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Maryland Shaw of the Baltimore Algebra Project

Maryland Shaw joined the Baltimore Algebra Project because, “I was wondering why I was reading books that were ten years older than I was. So I was like, ‘What can I do about it?’ And then I was introduced to the [Baltimore Algebra Project’s] Advocacy Committee who are fighting for funding, so it only made sense to join.” The 21-year old Shaw has been with the student-run organization for five years and is presently organizing to stop Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley from building a 230-bed, $104 million youth detention facility in Baltimore.

Shaw questions why Gov. O’Malley “thinks it makes sense to build a jail instead of educat[ing] our young people and putting money into education… The jail system is nothing but a big business. They’re going to profit off of the jail. I think that’s where their priorities are now – making money for themselves.”

Instead of building a jail for juveniles criminally charged as adults, Gov. O’Malley should use the $104 million for jobs and programming for youth, said Shaw. “Most young people commit crimes because they don’t have money to feed their family, or they don’t have money to feed themselves. So why don’t we give young people jobs so that they won’t have to commit a crime to get the money necessary to feed themselves and their families… Not only jobs [are needed, but] more programs… to support young people. ‘Cause I know that when a young person goes to jail, all they’re going to do is re-offend.”

The fight to stop the youth prison is not an easy one, nor will it be won overnight, said Shaw. “People want everything like a microwave – done in sixty seconds or done in a minute-and-a-half. [But] this is a long fight. And you gotta be in it to win it. You gotta be in it or out. Because it’s not going to happen today. It’s not going to happen tomorrow. It might not even happen a month or a year from now. This is a long struggle that’s gonna take a lot of work and a lot of manpower and a lot of probably restless nights. But if you want change then you have to be consistent because it’s gonna take a lot of time. But it’s worth it because you’re taking your power back.”

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