SGA joins in effort to raise age juveniles are charged as adults

SGA joins effort to raise age  juveniles can be charged as adults. Photo by Dynamite News

SGA joins effort to raise age juveniles can be charged as adults. Photo by Dynamite News

Alexander Best
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer

The Towson University Student Government Association unanimously voted in favor of a resolution affirming the body’s commitment to working with Baltimore non-profits to change the age that juveniles are charged in the state of Maryland.

The legal age to try a juvenile in the State of Maryland is 14 for violent crimes, as ordered by Trimble v. State in 1984 when a juvenile was tried as an adult after he was charged for murder.

Sen. Andre Williams introduced Resolution #28 in collaboration with two SGA officials at a Dec. 5 General Assembly meeting of the association.

The resolution concerned the support of a partnership between Towson University and Community Law in Action (CLIA), a Baltimore nonprofit that aims to bring awareness to juvenile injustices.

“This issue is critical to today’s climate because Baltimore has faced, and continues to face, acts of violence, police brutality, and injustice that directly affects the city’s youth,” said SGA Director of Civic Engagement Christian Pineiro, who has been working with CLIA on the initiative since October.

The nonprofit is currently petitioning to raise awareness surrounding a failed Maryland Senate Bill that would have increased the legal age to charge a juvenile for violent crimes in Baltimore City and the State of Maryland from 14 to 17.

The Maryland Senate Bill, SB215, was introduced in January by State Sen. Delores Kelley of District 10 and it was cross-filed in the House of Delegates by Del. Charles Sydnor III as HB471. The bill would have moved young people accused of armed robbery, handgun offenses, and first-degree assault to start their cases in the juvenile court, where a judge would decide if he or she should be tried in the adult court.

The bill failed in the Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee and never advanced to the floor for a vote. An amended version of the bill is expected to be introduced to the floor during the 2018 session, Director of Legislative Affairs Braysia Hicks said.

Pineiro originally learned about the issue after being contacted by CLIA Outreach Coordinator Sarah Wall, who was looking for opportunities to partner with Towson University.

Now that the resolution passed unanimously in the SGA Senate, Pineiro plans to use the spring semester to promote and collect 1,000 signatures for a petition addressed to State Sen. Robert Zirkin, urging him to support the amended bill and to recognize that “Towson University is fully backing the CLIA nonprofit in supporting this bill through student and community advocacy.”

Zirkin currently represents Maryland’s District 11 in Baltimore County.

“Once we engage students with the petition, both in person and electronically, we hope to table and campaign off campus to interact with the Baltimore County community to further raise awareness in 2018.” Pineiro said.

Students at Towson welcomed the SGA’s action.

“In Baltimore, we have children being placed in prison with seasoned killers, robbers, and rapists – only to be released a couple of years later with a degraded mental capacity and a criminal record,” said student Lewis Laury Jr., who is originally from Baltimore City. “The resolution passed by SGA is the spark needed to address this problem.”

The SGA plans to begin promoting their efforts and petition when students return to school in January 2018.

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