Herman C. Dawson, chief juvenile judge in Prince George’s County, extreme measures of discipline is drawing a lot of criticism among attorneys, families and Maryland’s second-highest court. Dawson has been reassigned due to his penchant for committing delinquent youths to institutions.Judge Sheila R. Tillerson Adams issued an order last week to transfer Dawson, who has been in charge of Prince George’s County juvenile court since 2010. Adams is the county’s administrative judge.
According to a spokeswoman for the Circuit Court, Tia Lewis, Dawson had previously requested the change. Lewis denied that Dawson’s reassignment had anything to do with the complaints against the judge.
Dawson said in a statement, “I enjoyed my seven years as coordinating judge for juvenile and look forward to my new assignment.” He went on to say that he works hard to help the kids who come through his courtroom and his number one goal was to “make sure that each and every kid that comes in front me gets the help that he or she needs, so they can be productive members of society.”
Adams’ order followed a recent article in The Baltimore Sun, which profiled a Columbia teen, who had pleaded “involved” to the theft of cell phone. Judge Dawson had committed the teenager to a juvenile facility for 891 days.
The Department of Juvenile Services officials, psychiatrists and caseworkers recommended that the boy be send home, but Dawson rejected them all.
Another Prince George’s County judge had released the 17-year-old teen in October 2015. Since then, the teenager has dropped out of school and has been arrested again. A psychiatrist determined that the teen suffered mental and emotional damage due to the stay in the juvenile system.
The juvenile’s mother, Keisha Hogan, has been critical of Dawson’s handling of her son’s case.
“I will never be able to undo the damage that he has created,” Hogan said. “However, this is a small victory and a step in the right direction… Other families will be able to safely and appropriately rehabilitate their child instead of having to deal with the insurmountable damage that they would have had to endure.”
Dawson’s new assignment began January 6 and will extend through September.