7, 2019

Senate Committee on Judicial Proceedings

Chairman and members of the

My name is Jesse Kelley and I am
the Government Affairs Specialist and a criminal justice policy analyst for the
R Street Institute. R Street is a nonprofit, public policy research
organization with a Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties team that focuses on
evaluating policies related to criminal justice and the juvenile justice systems,
as well as ways of effectively reintegrating the formerly incarcerated into
society. SB 197 is therefore of special interest to us.

While we acknowledge that serious
offenses committed by young people can have significant consequences for
victims and that the state has a duty to ensure accountability, it is equally
important that the state address its special responsibilities to avoid
permanently harming the development and rehabilitation of minors. Ultimately,
nearly all justice-involved youth will eventually return to their communities,
and the justice system needs to equip them with the skills needed for them to successfully
re-enter society.

Since SB 197 aims to add
attempted carjacking to the list of crimes for which a child may be waived out
of the juvenile system and placed in the adult system, we would like to share
information relating to the effects that involvement with the adult system can
have on juveniles.

Trying children in the adult
system often results in negative future outcomes for the children involved and
decreases public safety overall. This is because placing children in adult
facilities makes them extremely vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse, isolates
them and deprives them of developmentally appropriate rehabilitative services. When
children are put at risk in this manner and fail to receive the proper
services, they become more likely to commit crimes as adults.

Even juveniles who commit violent
crimes are best served when they remain in the juvenile system. Certainly,
children who commit violent acts may have different risk factors and need different,
lengthier interventions. But depriving children of vital services provided by
the juvenile justice system is usually not a proper solution.

Prosecutors in Maryland are
already equipped with the powerful tool of prosecutorial discretion, so in
cases of extreme deviancy, the prosecutor may file a motion to have a
juvenile’s case moved into the adult court system. This case-by-case,
individualized mechanism offers accountability in particularly egregious cases
while ensuring that those young people who should be in the juvenile justice
system can remain there. Yet by adding yet another criminal offense to the
statutory exclusion list, the Legislature would only be sending more young people
into an adult justice system, potentially disrupting their lives at a
fundamental level.

The R Street Institute believes
that allowing juvenile defendants to remain in the juvenile justice system is
best not only for those defendants but for the benefit of overall public

Thank you
for your time.

Kelley, Esq.

Affairs Specialist, Criminal Justice Policy 

Street Institute

Direct: 202.900.8252

[email protected]

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