Maryland ranks fourth among states with the highest rate of incarcerated people convicted under the age of 18, according to a new report by the nonprofit Human Rights for Kids, Ben Conarck reports for the Baltimore Banner. The report shows that six out of every 100 people incarcerated in Maryland were convicted when they were children, and 80 percent of them are Black.
Why does Maryland have such a high rate?
The numbers are likely a result of Maryland’s history of “tough on crime” policies, some of which remain in effect today, according to criminal justice reform advocates. Despite efforts to pass legislation to end the practice earlier this year, the state continues, by law, to automatically try children as adults for 33 different criminal offenses.
Youth ages 14 and older are tried as adults in court if they’re charged with first-degree murder, first-degree rape, or first-degree sex offense, among others. Minors 16 and up are tried as adults if they’re charged with a violent crime or handgun violation.
“We haven’t moved forward in any way, and we’ve had all the data and information now for more than a decade of how to do things better,” said Sen. Jill Carter, a Baltimore Democrat. “Republican-led states and legislatures have moved in a different direction, and it’s quite interesting that in this Democrat-led state that prides itself on being progressive, we can’t seem to move to progressive legislative action when it comes to Black people, especially in the criminal justice system.”
Anything else I should know?
During the legislative session earlier this year, Carter co-sponsored the Youth Equity and Safety Act, which would end the practice of automatic charging and move all cases involving minors under 18 to the juvenile justice system. The bill would have only allowed prosecutors to transfer children to the adult court system if they can prove the child won’t be rehabilitated through juvenile court.
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