HB 1344 — Department of Juvenile Services – Juvenile Strategic Reentry Program

Committee: House Appropriations

Position: Support

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of House Bill 1344. The Catholic Conference represents the public-policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, including the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

House Bill 1344 would require the establishment of a Juvenile Strategic Reentry Program within the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS). The aim of the program would be to reduce recidivism using specified techniques, including family engagement and connecting a child to appropriate resources. The bill also requires DJS to direct reentry specialists to oversee the return of children to the community.

In its pastoral statement “Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice” (USCCB, 2000), the United States conference of Catholic Bishops placed significant weight on efforts to reduce recidivism in both adult and juvenile criminal justice reform. There, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated, “We call upon government to redirect the vast amount of public resources away from building more and more prisons and toward better and more effective programs aimed at crime prevention, rehabilitation, education efforts, substance abuse treatment, and programs of probation, parole and reintegration.” Additionally, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has further 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.” The Supreme Court has agreed. In Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012), the United States Supreme Court specifically noted that youthful offenders possessed “diminished capacity” and the inability to fully appreciate the risks and consequences of their actions.

The Church maintains that systems of incarceration should be centered around restorative justice. With regard to youthful offenders, our state’s duty to ensure the same is significantly amplified. Efforts to reduce incidences of recidivism are imperative to ensuring youthful offenders have a legitimate chance to turn their lives around. For these reasons, we urge a favorable report on HB 1344.