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  • Writer's pictureArmstrong Williams

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and state prosecutors promise juvenile justice accountability, services

PUBLISHED: February 20, 2024 |

Armstrong Williams, left, talks Monday with Gov. Wes Moore, about juvenile justice in Maryland at a forum livestreamed from WBFF-TV in Baltimore. (Lloyd Fox/Staff)

Gov. Wes Moore, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy and Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates vowed during a forum Monday night to hold juvenile offenders accountable while promising to pursue expanded services for young people in trouble, with the governor reiterating plans to spend more and hire more staff to address problems in juvenile services.

A rise in certain crimes — such as car thefts, carjackings and gun charges — among Maryland youth is at the forefront of policymakers’ and lawmakers’ minds during the current General Assembly session.

“I will have a bill that will hit my desk by the end of session that will focus on accountability — not just for the children, but accountability for the systems whose job it is to make sure that our children get the rehabilitation they need,” Moore, a Democrat, said during the “Your Voice, Your Future” panel on juvenile justice. Armstrong Williams, a co-owner of The Baltimore Sun, hosted the forum, which was livestreamed from WBFF-TV in Baltimore.

According to Bates, Baltimore saw 87 vehicle theft charges in 2022. In 2023, that number ballooned to 216 charged “and over 250 arrested,” he said, demonstrating a rapid increase in car thefts in the city.

Moore noted that he stood alongside House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson, both Democrats, earlier this session when they introduced a multifaceted piece of legislation that aims to stem juvenile crime and hold state and local systems that interface with children to account.

House and Senate committees heard testimony on the legislation earlier this month. Bates and Braveboy, who are also Democrats, testified in favor of the legislation.

Both prosecutors and Moore reiterated Monday that juvenile justice is a priority and appeared to agree with measures in the bill.

Among its provisions is one to cut the amount of time the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services can spend on the intake process, an idea Braveboy praised. She said it would ensure Maryland has a juvenile justice system that works “rapidly,” would help prosecutors’ offices move more quickly when speaking to people impacted by crimes, and would allow kids to access rehabilitative programs in short order.

The bill would also extend the length of time children can serve on probation, and expand a list of charges children 10 to 12 can face to include alleged firearm possession, car theft, animal abuse and third-degree sex offenses.

Some Democrats in the General Assembly are concerned the new legislation would roll back laws passed two sessions ago, such as the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2022, which limited the charges younger children can face.

Moore said he supports the time increase for probationary periods, and that they “need to be long enough for the young person to actually receive the supports that their probation actually calls for.”

Braveboy called the probation extensions integral to the bill, noting that children who end up in the justice system are “responsible to the court” and must participate in the mandated programs they are referred to.

Much of the bill also focuses on revamping policies at the Department of Juvenile Services, which Moore said was perhaps the most challenged agency he inherited when he took office in January 2023.

“We’re talking about a department that was underfunded, undermanned, morale was low and there were really small levels of coordination taking place,” the governor said, noting that there was an 18% vacancy rate among staff at the agency when he began his four-year term.

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