Senator William C. Smith Jr., Chair of the Maryland Senate’s Judiciary Proceedings Committee, voiced strong support for a juvenile justice omnibus bill. In a Guest Commentary column at Maryland Matters, Senator Smith cites a litany of issues requiring potential legislative fixes:
The arrests of young kids. The hurdles placed by probation. The overuse of incarceration. The damaging illusion that we can charge and punish youth as if they were adults, even though we know they are not. Each step of the process is rife with racial and ethnic disparities that show youth of color are treated more harshly than their white peers for similar behavior.
He adds, “research… shows treating youth as adults harms public safety by increasing recidivism and future criminal behavior.” Senator Smith anticipates that a bill addressing these issues will be prioritized, with a hearing toward the beginning of the 2022 Maryland General Assembly session.