Push to Reform Juvenile Justice & Public Safety Concerns
by Joy Lepola | Wednesday, October 14th 2020
BALTIMORE (WBFF) - A major push to reform Maryland's juvenile justice system is heading in a direction that concerns one of Maryland's top State's Attorneys.
Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger tells Fox45 News there is currently an effort underway to ease punishment for young offenders even violent ones face in the State of Maryland.
The movement leans toward protecting juvenile delinquents from facing adult charges when they commit a violent crime.
Currently under Maryland law, juveniles who commit certain offenses must be charged as adults.
There are more than twenty exclusionary crimes on the books.
In Maryland, a teenager who is fourteen or older is automatically charged as an adult if they're accused of committing 1st degree murder, 1st degree rape, 1st degree sex offense, or any attempts or conspiracies to commit those offenses.
There are several violent offenses that will result in adult charges for teens who are sixteen or older.
Serious Violent Offenses (16 years old or older)
2nd Degree Murder (and attempted)
Manslaughter (except involuntary)
Second degree rape (and attempted)
Second degree sex offense (and attempted)
Third degree sex offense (and attempted)
Armed robbery (and attempted)
Carjacking or armed carjacking
First degree assault
Just this month a 17-year-old was accused of killing his five-year-old half sister in Anne Arundel County.
Police arrested and charged two teens age fourteen and eighteen in the homicide of a 14-year-old.
Seventeen year old Tommy Graham faces sixty-three charges for being a suspected member of a teen carjacking crew accused of beating and robbing more than fifty people.
Besides violent offenses, there are several firearm offenses that result in adult charges for teens.
The Baltimore County State's Attorney says
"There can nothing that is more scary than getting carjacked. And, right now our law says if you're sixteen or seventeen and you carjack someone you start in adult court."
Firearms Offenses (16 years old or older)
Wear, carry, or transport handgun
Use of a handgun or antique firearm in the commission of a crime, use of a machine gun in a crime of violence
Use of a machine gun for aggressive purposes
Possession of unregistered short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle
Restrictions on possession of a regulated firearm
Restrictions on sale, rental, or transfer of a regulated firearm
Sale, transfer, or disposal of stolen regulated firearm
An Operation: Crime & Justice investigation found in 2019 more than nine-hundred juveniles were accused of committing adult crimes.
More than half of the violent offenders were from one of two Maryland jurisdictions - Baltimore City & Baltimore County.
Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger has charged hundreds of juveniles as adults.
"I think if you do an armed carjacking, and you're sixteen or seventeen, I think you should be treated as an adult because that's a very adult crime."
Ashley DeVaughn, who is the with Advocates for Children and Youth says
"It's causing mental health issues and leads to detrimental outcomes. And, it does not decrease recidivism."
Many of the members of Maryland's Juvenile Justice Reform Council believe teens would be better served if they were kept out of Maryland's adult court system.
Shellenberger, who is also a member of the Maryland Juvenile Justice Reform Council, is concerned reform efforts are heading in a dangerous direction.
He says there's a conversation to eliminate laws that automatically charge teens as adults.
If lawmakers agreed, violent offenders would first be charged in Maryland's juvenile system where attention is focused on providing services rather than punishment.
The juvenile system also protects records regarding the crimes juveniles have committed.
Court proceedings are also off limits to the public.
"I think your viewers should be worried, according to Shellenberger."