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Bill to end auto-charging stalls in committee

Other juvenile justice reform bills make it to the Senate floor
JPR Committee hearing screenshot 3-11.jpg
Posted at 10:45 AM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-18 18:27:59-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Nearly two months ago, members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee heard dozens of witnesses in favor of SB165, however committee members have yet to hold an up or down vote on the bill.

This legislation would change the current legal procedure of automatically charging children in Maryland as adults for 33 different offenses.

SB165 was listed on the committee's voting session on Thursday, March 10, but the vote has been delayed several times.

RELATED: Juvenile Justice Bill aimed to end charging youth as adults awaits vote in Annapolis

Now, more than a week later, SB165 isn't on the list up for a vote on Friday, March 18.

With Crossover Day in the Maryland General Assembly coming up on Monday, the fate of the bill appears grim.

The House version of the bill also appears stalled in the Judiciary Committee.

Jenny Egan, a juvenile public defender gave us the below statement when asked about the bill's lack of movement in committee.

The Maryland Youth Justice Coalition was very disappointed that SB165 did not get out of committee in time, but this past year has been an extremely challenging one for all Marylanders and the continuing fallout of the pandemic led to a very packed legislative schedule. Advocates are working hard to pass the JJRC bill - which would be the largest overhaul of the juvenile code in a generation - and the Child Interrogation Protection Act. Given the limited capacity of advocates and the time left before crossover, we simply could not see a path to get a clean bill over the finish line in time.

We are grateful for our sponsors Sen. Jill Carter and Del. Charlotte Crutchfield's tireless efforts on these bills, as well as Chairman Smith's efforts to prioritize youth justice reform this year on JPR. We will be back next year and we will end the automatic charging of children in adult court. This bill was recommended by the Juvenile Justice Reform Council, supported by the AG, both major candidates for AG, and experts from across the political spectrum. Maryland charges more children automatically in adult court, based on crime, than any other state in the nation except for Alabama. We have built a broad based coalition of child advocates, doctors, corrections experts, law enforcement, and victim's advocates who agree that ending this inhumane practice is not just best for kids - but best for public safety and for Maryland's future. We will be back.

- Jenny Egan

A couple of other juvenile justice reform bills did clear out of the JPR committee over the last week.

These include SB53, The Children Interrogation Protection Act, which has now cleared the Senate in a 31-15 vote, and SB691 an omnibus bill to adjust the juvenile justice system which is now on the Senate floor.