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  • Writer's pictureArmstrong Williams

Gov. Moore poised to sign juvenile justice bill

PUBLISHED: May 7, 2024 |

On a public safety community walk in Baltimore Tueday, Gov. Wes Moore said he intends to sign the long-anticipated juvenile justice bill that Maryland leadership hopes will put an end to the excess of criminal activity committed by juveniles. The bill, which was unveiled by Maryland’s legislative leaders this winter, garnered support from several key legal figures, including Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy.

When asked about his becoming a law and order governor, Moore told me, “I think people should pay attention to what we said from our first days, when I said public safety was going to be the top priority for this administration, and we were serious about that.”

The bill incorporates critical provisions that are anticipated to close major loopholes, thereby preventing juveniles from continuing to commit crimes without consequence. Critical provisions of the bill include the requirement for law enforcement to file a complaint with the Department of Juvenile Services in cases where a child, who is less than 13 years old at the time, commits a crime that “results in the death of a victim.” Additionally, the bill grants juvenile court the authority to grant probation extensions for children accused of misdemeanor offenses, up to one year, from the current duration of six months.

Furthermore, in cases where a juvenile has committed a felony offense, the judge will have the authority to increase the probationary period by two years, up to four years, as opposed to the current one-year maximum.

The bill’s provisions seem to directly contradict the progressive policies championed by embattled Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Vincent Schiraldi. Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, a key voice in the debate, told me, “Having spent many hours talking to the governor about what’s going on in the juvenile system, [I know] that he is committed to fixing DJS, and he will do what needs to be done.”

To many in Maryland, the signing of this bill is a critical step forward in securing the state’s future. The overarching sentiment is that, while many youths are capable of being saved, others remain unsalvageable. This legislation seems intended to strike a balance by ensuring a promising future for those young individuals who are amenable to rehabilitation, while also impeding the ability of those who appear content with relegating themselves to a life of criminal activity — including murderers and carjackers — to do so.

“I want to be clear,” Governor Moore said to me, “we want to come up with the right type of thing where we have accountability for people who are breaking the law, particularly repeat violent offenders, but the answer isn’t that ‘let’s find a way to incarcerate every child,’ we want to make sure that we’re educating every child, supporting every child, supporting the families that the children are existing in. But there’s got to be accountability.”

Armstrong Williams (; @arightside) is a political analyst, syndicated columnist and owner of the broadcasting company, Howard Stirk Holdings. He is also part owner of The Baltimore Sun.

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