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Trying Kids as Adults: Policies are Changing

March 22, 2011: Baltimore, MD – Maryland is among more than 20 states in the United States that have changed or are considering changes to their policies around trying kids as adults according to a new report, State Trends: Legislative Changes from 2005-2010 Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System, released last week by the Campaign for Youth Justice.

State Trends highlights the policy changes by examining the impact that the reforms have already had, as well as showcasing states currently contemplating reforms. In the past 5 years, 15 states have changed their state policies and at least another 9, including Maryland, are underway with active policy reform efforts. The report starts with an overview of the major problems that result from trying youth in adult criminal court and then examines four distinct ways that States and local jurisdictions are changing the politics of youth crime.

In this report, the campaign indentifies four specific types of trends.

  • States and Local Jurisdiction Remove Youth from Adult Jails and Prisons
  • States Raise the Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction
  • States Change Transfer Laws to Keep More Youth in Juvenile Court
  • States Rethink Sentencing Laws for Youth

Maryland is highlighted among other states that are on the horizon of reforming policies currently charging youth as adults. The catalyst of Maryland’s reform was the Just Kids Report, released October 2010 by the Just Kids Partnership. The report shows that Maryland’s current laws and policies charging, prosecuting and punishing youth as adults have a negative impact on Maryland’s youth and communities.

The Just Kids Report was added to the plethora of research highlighted in State Trends. “State policy makers are beginning to understand the overwhelming research that kids are not adults and need educational and rehabilitative services,” said Neelum Arya, State Trends author and Research and Policy Director for the Campaign for Youth Justice. “State Trends documents the ineffectiveness of prosecuting youth in adult criminal court and tracks the trends of returning to the original promise of the juvenile court.”

Maryland currently mandates that youth as young as 14 be automatically charged as adults when charged with certain crimes, without the benefit of any hearing to judge the appropriateness of the adult prisons for the youth. In fact, the Just Kids Report found that 1/3 of youth automatically charges as adults were subsequently transferred to the Department of Juvenile Services after being incarcerated in harmful adult prisons for an average of 5 months. Another 1/3 had their cases dismissed. Maryland’s progress continues. The state is poised as a leader in the national movement to improve community safety, save money and treat youth as youth. For more information on the State Trends Report, visit: www.campaignforyouthjustice.org. For more information on the Just Kids Report, visit www.justkidsmaryland.org.

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