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Bill would prohibit charging children 13 and younger with crimes

March 20th, 2021 by WCBC Radio

Maryland state lawmakers are considering legislation to prohibit charging a child younger than 13 with a crime. WBAL reports the bill is the product of two years of study, and it's designed to keep kids away from the court and place them in diversion programs, rather than jail. The legislation does not include violent crimes, like murder, carjacking and rape.

When a young person breaks the law in Maryland, they are forced into a criminal justice system that many say offers few tools to assess their needs or risk of reoffending. And locking kids up is expensive at $400,000 per child per year, according to the Justice Policy Institute.

A juvenile justice reform measure close to passage in the House aims to change that. Under the bill, children younger than 13 who commit nonviolent misdemeanors would not be charged with a crime. Instead, they would be assessed and provided community-based services.