Members of the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee held hearings in Annapolis this week on juvenile justice reform measures including proposals to remove youth from adult jails and end the automatic prosecution of youth in adult criminal court. Kara Aanenson and Kevin Junior of Community Law in Action (CLIA), and Camilla Roberson of the Public Justice Center (PJC) shared testimony in support of these proposals, along with youth, families, legal experts, community members, and advocates in a packed hearing room.
"This is a failed policy," stated Camilla Roberson in her testimony on legislation to end the automatic prosecution of youth in the adult criminal court. Community member, Eileen Siple of Harford County, Maryland also testified in support of the proposal stating that, "Children should not end up in the adult system until after a judge has decided, based on all the available information, that there is nothing the juvenile system can do for that child."
A young person who'd been court involved, Kevin, shared his experiences in the Baltimore Jail. Kevin, now a youth organizer at CLIA, spent 11 months in the jail awaiting trial and then was transferred back to the juvenile court. He spoke about the differences between the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems and the need to provide opportunities, education and rehabilitation for young people.
While several attorneys and the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services testified against these bills, the bills received overwhelming support from youth and their families, community members, legal experts and advocates. Stacey Gurian-Sherman shared her testimony on these bills along with with hundreds of individuals who'd signed on to support the legislation in a strong show of support.
The next round of hearings on juvenile justice proposals are expected on March 7 in the Maryland House of Delegates.
To get involved in juvenile justice advocacy efforts in Maryland, contact the Just Kids Partnership.