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Senate grants preliminary approval to juvenile justice measure

Sen. Alonzo T. Washington (D-Prince George’s) asks Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery) about the juvenile justice reform legislation. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

One day after the Maryland House of Delegates granted preliminary approval to a juvenile justice reform bill, the Senate did the same on Thursday.

Senate Bill 744 contains 12 amendments adopted by the Judicial Proceedings Committee earlier this week, with many matching the House version.

One amendment would require that if a child between the ages of 10 to 12 is referred to an at-risk youth and prevention program, it must be a program managed by a law enforcement agency or local state’s attorney’s office, a local care team, or community-based service provider.

The changes also would require a law enforcement officer who arrests a youth to file a written report with the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) detailing whether the young person was referred to a program or not.

Both chambers’ bills would require DJS to complete a three-year plan that includes programs for youth who are “at the highest risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of gun violence. However, the House bill designates that the programs would be targeted for youth ages 10 to 14.

Although both bills require the Commission on Juvenile Justice Reform and Emerging and Best Practices to conduct its first meeting by July 1, the bills differ in who would serve on the commission.

The Senate amendment would require that two commission members be from the Consortium on Coordinated Community Supports, which is responsible for developing a statewide framework to expand access for behavioral health services for Maryland students.

While both versions would require that a repr— with relevant education experience serve on the commission, the House version also would require that one local school superintendent and one school principal serve.

Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery), chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, acknowledged that the bill does not include certain measures which some advocates, state’s attorneys and public defenders wanted.

“If [the bill’s] at a place where no one is quite happy, then maybe you’ve done right thing,” he said to reporters after the Senate session.

Three amendments were accepted from the Senate floor including one from Sen. Clarence K. Lam (D-Howard and Anne Arundel). Lam’s amendment would require that the state Board of Victim Services distribute information about the Children in Need of Supervision petition, also known as CINS.

The Senate rejected, in a 29-17 vote, an amendment offered by Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-Lower Shore). Her amendment would have permitted a law enforcement officer to question a child — after giving reasonable notice to a parent, guardian, or custodian — if a crime of violence was committed.

She said the Child Interrogation Protection Act passed two years ago has made it harder for law enforcement agencies and local state’s attorneys to investigate and prosecute crimes.

After the session, Senate Minority Whip Justin Ready (R-Frederick and Carroll) said he would have liked to have seen a stronger bill.

“The idea that you can’t ever question a child without a lawyer present, as long as an adult is present, I don’t agree with that,” Ready said.

During the debate, Smith said current law protects a child’s constitutional rights and allows a child to receive legal advice from an attorney.

“The law as it stands does not hamstring law enforcement’s ability to make inquiries and do their job,” he said. “The law protects public safety. The law as it stands now protects constitutional rights regardless of your age.”

The Senate could give final approval to the bill as early as Monday, while the House may do that Friday.


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Senate grants preliminary approval to juvenile justice measure