E-Alerts & Press Releases

Premiere - The Truth About Our Youth: A Look at Maryland’s Youth in the Adult Criminal Justice System

November 14, 2013, 7-9 pm, The Charles Theater
Admission is free. Panel discussion to follow.
Contact:  Camilla Roberson, Public Justice Center, (410) 625-9409 x224; Kara Aanenson, Community Law in Action, (410)706-3875; Rashad Hawkins, Community Law in Action (410) 706-3875
“I was 16 and I was doing good in school…Getting locked up just …threw it off track.”  Kevin J.
“When I first went into the Baltimore City Detention Center, I was a little cricket in a big grasshopper world, if you could say that…I was the smallest thing in the biggest jumpsuit. . .and I was scared to death.” Jabriera H.
“My cell buddy, he was 40 and I was 16…I felt like I was lost.  I was scared.” Richard R.
These words introduce the stories in The Truth About Our Youth: A Look at Maryland’s Youth in the Adult Criminal Justice System, premiering November 14, 2013, at 7:00 pm at the Charles Theater.  The premiere is presented by the Just Kids Partnership, a collaborative project of the Public Justice Center and Community Law in Action. The film examines Maryland’s practice of automatically charging youth as adults through the stories of four individuals charged as adults while still teenagers and the words of advocates fighting to reform the system. The Truth About Our Youth was produced by Just Kids, produced, filmed, and directed by the Megaphone Project, and is supported in part, by a grant from Open Society Institute-Baltimore. 
This free event will also include a chance to walk the red carpet and a reception co-sponsored by the American Constitution Society – Maryland Lawyers’ Chapter before the screening. A panel discussion with advocates and youth formerly charged as adults will follow the film. People can RSVP via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/1385780411662168/ or by emailing the Just Kids Partnership at justkidsmd@gmail.com.
Under current Maryland law a kid as young as 14* can be prosecuted automatically in the adult criminal justice system, based solely on age and charge. This means for the most part that the child is placed in an adult jail pending trial, subject to adult process, guarded by officers trained to work with adults. The law, a result of a wave of “tough on crime” policies that swept the US in the late 1980s and early 1990s, is a failure. Research over the last two decades indicates that the policy neither makes the community safer nor deters youth crime. Youth prosecuted as adults, once released, are more likely to re-offend, and offend more violently than comparable youth processed in the juvenile system.   
Most of the kids automatically sent into the adult system never receive an adult conviction.  In Maryland, over two-thirds of youth whose cases originate in the adult criminal justice system are sent back to the juvenile justice system or have their cases dismissed.  Of those remaining in the adult system, most are placed on probation belying any concern that these youth are a serious threat to the public.  Only a small minority are sent to prison.
The Truth About Our Youth brings these statistics to life through the stories of those who were automatically charged as adults. The film questions why the practice continues, walking viewers through how this policy came to be, the way in which hundreds of youth each year are pulled into the adult criminal justice system, and the serious negative consequences borne by youth charged in the adult system and the community at large.
*Youth 14 and up charged with a crime punishable by life imprisonment is excluded from the juvenile jurisdiction upon arrest.  Youth 16 and up charged with a series of 33 enumerated crimes including abduction, kidnapping, second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, 1st degree assault, second degree rape, second degree sex offense, third degree sex offense, armed robbery, various firearm violations, attempts and conspiracies.  For further information see the Just Kids website, www.justkidsmaryland.org

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