Advocacy leaders push state lawmakers for protection of policies centered around children’s rights – CBS News

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ANNAPOLIS – As the spotlight hangs over the Juvenile Justice System in Maryland this legislative session, a group of advocates from across the state rallied at St. Anne’s Parish Monday evening to defend the current laws.

The group highlighted the Child Interrogation Protection Act and Juvenile Justice Reform Act, both of which became state laws in 2022. 

“The idea is, we need treatment, we need to expand juvenile services, we need to expand the CINS (Child in Need of Supervision) process and we do not need harsher sentences for children,” Senator Jill Carter said. 

Carter was the Juvenile Justice Reform Act bill sponsor. 

Meanwhile, the changes made to the legal code centered around interrogating a juvenile require law enforcement to notify their parent or guardian when taken into custody and require authorities to give the child an opportunity to connect with an attorney to explain their rights.

Late last year, State Attorneys from Prince George’s County and Baltimore City jointly shared their legislative priorities for this upcoming session. 

One included the idea of making tweaks to the law that would require an attorney to be present in person during the interrogation, which would eliminate the option to do so by phone.

During the same rally, the group of advocates also made the push for the passage of the Second Look Act. 

“Which would allow individuals who are currently incarcerated and who have served at least 20 years the opportunity to petition the court to reduce or modify their sentence,” Yanet Amanuel, with the ACLU of Maryland, said. 

Amanuel said this bill would reduce racial disparities in prison by creating another avenue to release Marylanders who demonstrate rehabilitation. 

In 2023, the Attorney General’s Office released data that showed African Americans constitute approximately 30% of Maryland’s population but make up a staggering 72% of the prison population – the highest percentage of imprisoned African Americans in the country.

“This doesn’t automatically release anyone, it just simply returns the power back to the courts that they used to have prior to a rule change in 2004,” Amanuel said.  “And so, this is an opportunity for the courts to revisit cases based on our current understanding of fairness and racial justice.”

The petition to reduce or modify a sentence is cross-filed in both chambers.

The bill is now in the committee. 

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