Lawmakers propose bills, hope Ehrlich will reform Juvenile Justice System

Feb. 24, 2004, midnight | By Feza Kikaya | 16 years, 8 months ago

This is not original reporting. All information has been compiled from The Washington Post article "Ehrlich Pressed on Juvenile Justice" by Tim Craig.

Maryland legislators proposed bills modifying the state's juvenile justice system in hopes that such moves will motivate Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich to push for reform. Delegates are pressing for legislation that will begin the process Ehrlich outlined in a 40-page blueprint during his 2002 campaign, which includes building new, smaller detention centers and creating a fifth school district designed especially to educate young offenders.

According to the Post, Del. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) and other law officials are frustrated by the lack of attention given to the justice system and are thus taking matters into their own hands. "Quite frankly I've heard enough about what needs to be done. I'm going to try to put it into law," said Zirkin.

Heather Ford, the director of the Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition, said she is also "disappointed" and that "in the past 13 months we would have expected more than talk."

The Post reported that Zirkin is sponsoring legislation that would close old detention centers and retool educational programs for delinquents. Under a proposal by Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery County), the administration would have a December deadline to propose plans for relocating young offenders out of large centers to more community-based facilities.

Also, Zirkin and Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr. (D-Prince George's County) drafted bills that implement some of the policies the Governor outlined while running for office.

During his campaign, Ehrlich criticized the previous administration for failing to focus on the juvenile justice system. According to the Post, the Governor did not mention the issue in his State of the State address.

The Post also reported that the U.S. Justice Department is conducting civil rights investigations into the conditions of the Charles Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County and the Cheltenham youth detention center in Prince George's County, where there have been rumors of abuse.

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