The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of Senate Bill 149. The Catholic Conference represents the public-policy interests of the three (arch)diocese serving Maryland, including the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.
This legislation would require law enforcement officers to issue a citation to a child if the officer has probable cause to believe that the child is committing a first violation for trespass, disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated that “society must never respond to children who have committed crimes as though they are somehow equal to adults fully formed in conscience and fully aware of their actions.” (Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, USCCB, 2000). Senate Bill 149 would help ensure that children committing certain nonviolent prohibited acts have the opportunity to appreciate their mistakes without disproportionate consequences. Statistics indicated that disproportionately harsh consequences lead to higher rates of recidivism.
Therefore, society should treat youthful offenders in a way that appreciates their varying stages of emotional and physical development. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has specifically noted certain inherent characteristics of youthful offenders, including their “diminished capacity” and “greater prospects for reform”. Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012). In light of these characteristics and as an advocate for restorative justice, particularly within the juvenile system, the Maryland Catholic Conference supports any opportunity to give young people the chance to amend their lives through an alternative method to traditional arrest, where warranted. Therefore, we urge a favorable report for Senate Bill 149.