PRESS RELEASE: Bill Signed By Governor Hogan Improves the Treatment of Youth Charged as Adults

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information, contact:
Kara Aanenson, Director of Advocacy
410-706-3875

BALTIMORE, Maryland, May 14, 2015 – This week in Annapolis, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed House Bill 618 into law. With his signature, Hogan ended Maryland’s practice of holding young people ages 14-17 who are automatically charged as adults in adult jails. Passage of the new law is a major victory for the statewide youth-led advocacy Just Kids Campaign, which is an initiative of the Baltimore nonprofit Community Law in Action (CLIA).

In Maryland, young people between the ages of 14-17 are automatically charged as an adult if they are accused with one of 33 offenses. Many of these youth have the opportunity to ask for a transfer hearing to send their case from adult court to juvenile court.

The law, which goes into effect on October 1, 2015, requires that the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services holds every transfer eligible juvenile automatically charged as an adult in juvenile detention centers and not adult jails while they await their transfer hearing. The law also outlines the exceptions to the policy. The exceptions are when a young person is released on bail, recognizance or other conditions of pretrial release, when there is no capacity at a Department of Juvenile Service Detention Center, or when a judge finds that detention in a secure juvenile facility would pose a risk to the child or others.

In 2013, the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services implemented a policy of holding qualified Baltimore City juveniles who have been charged as adults in juvenile facilities, ending the practice of holding those youth in the city’s adult pre-trial detention center. With the passage of House Bill 618 into law, this practice now becomes the policy statewide.

Holding youth charged as adults in secure juvenile facilities across the state is important for many reasons. First, it ensures that juveniles will immediately receive mental health and educational services that are considered appropriate for such youth while they await trial. Youth held in adult jails are not required to receive these services. Second, it protects youth regardless of their geographic location.Each county jail treats youth charged as adults differently. The majority of youth are either held in solitary confinement or in the general population with adult inmates while they await trial. Third, it decreases the likelihood that a young person will return to the criminal justice system. Youth held in adult facilities are more likely to reoffend and reoffend more violently than those treated in juvenile facilities. Finally, it protects young people from harm. Studies show youth held in adult jails are at a higher risk of physical and mental harm from other inmates and guards.

Ninety-three percent (93%) of the pretrial population of youth charged as adults is male, and 80% is African American. Between 2012-2014, the largest population of juveniles charged as adults and held in detention were in Baltimore City, followed by the Central Region (Baltimore County, Howard County, Harford County, and Carroll County).

“This is an important first step in removing youth from the adult criminal justice system,” says Kara Aanenson, CLIA’s Director of Advocacy.

Community Law In Action (CLIA) cultivates the leadership skills of Baltimore City’s youth to elevate the unique voice of young people to advocate for positive community change.  In addition to leading the Just Kids Campaign, CLIA runs the Law & Leadership Academies program in four Baltimore City public high schools.

Just Kids Campaign is a statewide advocacy campaign working to change the way youth charged as adults are treated in the Maryland justice system though policy changes, community organizing and public education.  The mission of the Just Kids Partnership is to stop the automatic prosecution of Maryland juveniles as adults.  The campaign trains young people and families who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system to become advocates for statewide systems change.

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Connect with Community Law in Action on Facebook and Twitter (@cliayouth)

Learn more and add your voice to the Just Kids Campaign:

http://justkidsmaryland.org/Facebook | Twitter (@JustKidsMD).