Almost exactly one year ago, on January 23, 2007, Isaiah Simmons, a 17-year-old convicted of armed robbery, died at the Baltimore-area Bowling Brook Preparatory School, a privately run residential program for juvenile offenders. Following an outburst that day, Simmons was set upon by a group of counselors, who, according to the Baltimore Sun, “pinned him face down to the ground, restraining him for about three hours.” After Simmons lost consciousness, the guards waited forty-one minutes before calling 911.
It seemed like Simmons’s death had prompted some serious soul-searching on the part of the state’s juvenile justice officials. The school was shut down in March, the death was ruled a homicide–and even Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley got on board with a plan to revamp the system. But that taste of reform has, in recent weeks, gone sour. On January 11 O’Malley, in a turn as Big Brother, announced a $1 million allocation in the state’s 2009 budget for the purchase of GPS-equipped ankle bracelets to monitor, track and supervise 200 of the state’s most at-risk juvenile offenders. And yesterday, Carroll Court Circuit Judge Michael Galloway dismissed the last of the charges of reckless endangerment that had been filed against the counselors in the Simmons case. (Just typing these lines makes my blood boil. Forty-one minutes! What were they doing all that time, and by what twist of legal logic is that not reckless endangerment?)
According to the AP, Bowling Brook administrator Brian Hayden said in a prepared statement, “With this dismissal, Judge Galloway affirms that these gentlemen had nothing but the utmost concern for the safety and welfare of Isaiah, and they reacted as quickly and effectively as possible in an effort to avoid this tragedy.” Simmons’s mother, Felicia Wilson, said she was “devastated and outraged” that charges against the counselors were dismissed. “I have no faith in the Carroll County justice system,” she said. “I’m not going to stop fighting for justice for my son.” Wilson has called for federal charges, and prosecutors plan to file an appeal.