Testimony from:

Jesse Kelley, Government Affairs Specialist, the R Street Institute

In SUPPORT of SB 899, “AN ACT concerning Juvenile Law – Probation.”

March 12, 2019

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee

Chair and members of the committee:

Thank you for considering my testimony today. My name is Jesse Kelley, and I am the Government Affairs Specialist for the R Street Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization. Our mission is to engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government in many areas, including juvenile justice reform, which is why SB 899 is of special interest to us.

Maryland should continue to move toward the ideal aims of juvenile justice involvement—improved public safety and youth rehabilitation. We believe the ultimate goal of juvenile probation is to ensure that a young person under the supervision of a juvenile probation officer receives rehabilitative services such that, upon completion of a period of probation, the youth can continue without additional intervention from the justice system. As part of this intervention, probation systems must balance the dual priorities of promoting rehabilitation and accountability among youths.

Evidence suggests that shorter probation terms can be used as a reward for good behavior for those on probation, and that shortening them has no adverse effects on public safety. If it is necessary to put a youth on probation, the opportunity to shorten the court-determined probationary period must be regularly reviewed and taken when appropriate.

Mainly, juvenile probation should avoid doing harm. Many young people who would otherwise grow out of offensive behaviors are trapped by overburdensome probations that can actually extend the duration of their juvenile justice system involvement.

The juvenile justice system was created to address the differing developmental needs between teens and adults; however, juvenile probation has, for the most part, become a monitor-and-control system. Now, the challenge is to create and implement a developmentally oriented approach to community-based supervision that ensures accountability and promotes public safety. SB 899 would be a critical component in addressing over-supervision and could ultimately create more positive outcomes for youth.

For these and other reasons, we support advancing SB 899 and will make ourselves available for additional questions.

Thank you for your consideration,

Jesse Kelley, Esq.
Government Affairs Specialist, Criminal Justice Policy
The R Street Institute

jkelley@rstreet.org