Baltimore Area Officials Seek Juvenile Justice Reforms At Joint Town Hall


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BALTIMORE COUNTY - Baltimore County and City officials called for changes to juvenile conviction laws at a rare joint town hall on Wednesday.

Addressing an audience of over 100, Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger called for residents to write their representatives, telling them to reconsider recently reformed juvenile justice enforcement laws. 

New Juvenile Justice Reform Legislation took effect in 2022, setting a minimum age for prosecuting a minor and offering mental health treatment and programs from the Departments of Juvenile Services and Social Services.

The goal was to reduce the number of juveniles charged as adults and held in Maryland jails and prisons. According to a 2021 Human Rights for Kids report, Maryland has one of the nation's highest rates of incarcerated individuals convicted as children.

Under the laws, individuals aged 13 or younger can only face charges for violent offenses, while those under 10 are exempt from charges altogether. Additionally, the legislation stipulates a six-month probationary period for youths convicted of misdemeanors typically tried in adult courts, and a one-year probation for those found guilty of felonies typically prosecuted in adult courts.

While Governor Wes Moore has championed the role of public agencies in aiding and rehabilitating vulnerable children, Baltimore area prosecutors are seeking more discretion in charging minors as adults for specific crimes, a decision-making power now vested with the Department of Juvenile Services.

At the meeting, residents voiced concerns over car thefts, drug dealing, and assaults. Many attendees advocated for harsher penalties for minors committing weapons offenses.

Baltimore City State's Attorney Ivan Bates said that his office does not have "first dibs" in juvenile cases, adding that the lack of enforcement is "extremely" concerning to prosecutors.

The Fraternal Order of Police and the Maryland Attorney General's Office representatives will meet on Nov. 8 in Annapolis to continue discussions surrounding juvenile justice reform.

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