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Hannah E. Wheeling is yet another victim of a shadow justice system in dire need of an overhaul.

Ms. Wheeling, who was murdered last week at the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Prince George’s County, dedicated her career to helping teens who ended up in the juvenile justice system.

Unfortunately, her killing is little more than a high-profile stumble by a system that does as much harm as good.

Based on a legal notion that people younger than a certain age don’t have the wherewithal to know crimes they commit are wrong, the juvenile justice system goes to great lengths to protect perpetrators of numerous malicious acts until they reach age 18. Unfortunately, for an unreasonable portion of the teens who end up in the juvenile justice system, it is little more than a training ground for how to misbehave when they become a legal age.

As readers of the arrest reports in this newspaper can attest, each year brings a new graduating class of 18-year-olds making the first of many court appearances. Very few are new to police, but, thanks to the juvenile justice system, those with substantial juvenile records, unavailable for public scrutiny, start with clean slates. For a lot of kids, this is fine. For others, it’s not. Society is denied justice every time a miscreant unable to be rehabilitated in the juvenile system ends up being loosed on the general public. While it remains to be seen what happened in the murder of Ms. Wheeling, it’s clear that the secretive juvenile justice system continues to be a font of trouble.

If any good comes out of this tragedy, it will be a renewed focus on this irreparable part of our justice system that results in real change.

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