Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. My name is Kwantai and I am 18 years old. I am a Youth Leader with the Just Kids Campaign. I am here to testify today in support of SB 243.
I was arrested and charged as an adult when I was 17 years old. I was a senior at Augusta Fells High School. I was doing well in school and was on the wrestling team. I was a proud member of the class of 2015 and was looking forward to graduating.
One day after school I was walking my ex –girlfriend home from track practice. After I dropped her off, I headed home. I ran into a friend of mine and I decided to go over to his house. As we were walking to his house my friend made the split decision to rob someone. I had no idea that this would happen. Although I had been walking with him for no longer than 15 minutes, the police showed up and arrested us both for armed robbery.
I was taken to Baltimore City Detention Center and was housed there for a week in segregation. Then I was moved to the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center. I waited six months for a transfer hearing and my case was sent back to the juvenile court. Eventually my case was dismissed, but by that time I had already missed the rest of my 12th grade year and I couldn’t graduate.
Being charged as an adult caused me a lot of stress. It’s so hard to imagine your future when your lawyer is telling you that you could spend 10 to 12 years in prison. Everything that I’ve worked for could have been gone right before my eyes, just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even though my case was dismissed by the juvenile court, getting arrested and charged as an adult set my plans back a year. I had goals of going to college, becoming a professional football player and have my own recreation center for young people.
It’s been difficult, but I am back at Augusta Fells High School and working towards graduation – I have two classes left.
Based on my experience, kids should not be automatically charged as adults because:
1. It messes up their future.
2. Kids end up there that don’t need to be there.
3. Jails and prisons are no places for children.
For these reasons, I am asking this committee to support SB 243.