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House committee vote today: Tell your Delegates to treat kids as kids in the criminal justice system

March 20, 2013

The House Judiciary Committee is voting today on HB 786, which would stop the automatic prosecution of youth as adults for certain crimes. Please call the members of this committee today and ask them to vote for HB 786.

In Maryland, youth 14 to 17 years of age must be charged as adults if they are accused of committing any of 33 enumerated offenses. This decision is made upon arrest, based solely on age and charge, and well before a judge has looked at the individual circumstances of the alleged crime or the background of the involved youth in the adult.

But we know that this policy harms youth and does not protect the public. In fact, this practice casts far too wide a net. Over 2/3 of the youth automatically charged as adults in Maryland have their case dismissed or returned to the juvenile system, but only after that youth has spent on average 1-6 months in adult jail. Worse, youth who are charged and prosecuted in the adult system go on to reoffend more often and more violently than youth tried and punished in the juvenile system for equivalent offenses.  
HB 786 would end the practice of automatically prosecuting youth as adults in Maryland. Every youth charged with an offense would start off in the juvenile system and could be sent to the adult system only after a hearing where a trained judge examines all the facts and circumstances of a case and determines which system was the appropriate one for the youth.
We can do better by our youth. Please call your Delegates on the House Judiciary Committee and urge them to support HB 786. 
Talking Points
Feel free to use some of the talking points below when contacting your legislators.
HB 786 Repeal the Automatic Charging of Youth as Adults:
My name is _________________ and I am calling to request that you support HB 786.  Kids are fundamentally different from adults and this needs to be considered before a kid is sent into the adult system, not after. All youth should start out in the juvenile justice system. If a judge looks at the evidence and the individual circumstances of a case, then and only then should a youth be sent into the adult criminal justice system.
  • A youth charged as an adult is more likely to be transferred to the juvenile system or have his case dismissed than go through adjudication in the adult court system.
  • I would rather a judge determine whether a youth should be in the juvenile or adult system after a hearing, at the outset of a case.
  • Charging a youth as an adult increases the likelihood of future violent crimes than if he were kept in the juvenile system.
  • A youth in the adult system receives little or no education, mental health treatment, or rehabilitation, and is much more likely to experience violence at the hands of other inmates.
  • Sending youth into the adult system is more costly in the long term than keeping them in an effective juvenile justice system. Experts estimate that overall, every $1 spent on older teens in the juvenile justice system results in $3 of savings in the criminal justice system.
  • Youth are likely to age-out of crime as they mature and the decision-making and risks and consequences areas of their brain fully develop.
  • The process of charging youth as adults in Maryland has a severely disproportionate impact on African-American youth. 
I respectfully urge you to support this legislation.
Thank you.
Contact information
House Judiciary Committee
Joseph F. Vallario, Jr., Chair, ext. 3488
Kathleen M. Dumais, Vice Chair, ext. 3052
Curt Anderson, ext. 3291, curt.anderson@house.state.md.us
Sam Arora, ext. 3528, sam.arora@house.state.md.us
Jill P. Carter, ext. 3283, jill.carter@house.state.md.us
Luke Clippinger, ext. 3303, luke.clippinger@house.state.md.us
John W.E. Cluster, Jr., ext. 3526, john.cluster@house.state.md.us
Frank M. Conaway, Jr., ext. 3189, frank.conaway@house.state.md.us
Glenn Glass, ext. 3280, glenn.glass@house.state.md.us
Michael J. Hough, ext. 3472, michael.hough@house.state.md.us
Kevin Kelly, ext. 3404, kevin.kelly@house.state.md.us
Susan Lee, ext. 3649, susan.lee@house.state.md.us
Susan K. McComas, ext. 3272, susan.mccomas@house.state.md.us
Michael A. McDermott, ext. 3431, mike.mcdermott@house.state.md.us
Keiffer Mitchell, Jr., ext. 3802, keiffer.mitchell@house.state.md.us
Neil Parrott, ext. 3636, neil.parrott@house.state.md.us
Samuel I. Rosenberg, ext. 3297, samuel.rosenberg@house.state.md.us
Luiz Simmons, ext. 3037, luiz.simmons@house.state.md.us
Micheal D. Smigiel, Sr., ext. 3555, michael.smigiel@house.state.md.us
Darren M. Swain, ext. 3692, darren.swain@house.state.md.us
Kriselda Valderrama, ext. 3210, kris.valderrama@house.state.md.us
Geraldine Valentino-Smith, ext. 3101
Jeff Waldstreicher, ext. 3130, jeff.waldstreicher@house.state.md.us

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